Detectives working to identify beheaded woman

As Tel Aviv police collect footage from surveillance cameras in the area, local drug users ponder who did it.

August 4, 2013 21:15
Police at south Tel Aviv site at which decapitated body was found, August 3, 2013

Decapitation crime scene 370 1. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

A day after a woman’s corpse was found decapitated and dismembered in a suitcase in south Tel Aviv, detectives were chasing any clue that could indicate who she was, and who killed her.

It could take days, or longer, to determine the victim’s identity, police said on Saturday night.

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Without a head, and with other appendages missing, police are hoping that a family member comes forward, so that they can try to match a DNA sample to the body. Once they are able to identify the woman police will have a far easier time determining who killed her.

Officers have been going door-to-door in the neighborhood near the Hagana Railway Station, collecting footage from the surveillance cameras that dot most of the storefronts in the streets near where the suitcase was found, around the Ayalon Highway and about 400 meters east of the city’s central bus station. They are also working to develop a profile of the killer, and working on a number of scenarios, including that the woman was involved in the drugs or sex trade, that she was killed by a loved one, or a woman killed by a stranger, among other possibilities.

Ever since news of the grisly discovery broke on Saturday, speculation has risen over the woman’s identity, with many saying she must have been either a sex worker or a drug addict. The fact that the vacant lot and the paved area with benches next to where she was found are well-known hang-outs for drug addicts has given fuel to this school of thought.

“If one of these woman goes missing, it could be a month at least and no one would notice,” “Rami,” a middle-aged man from Holon, said on Sunday as he walked of a drug tahana (“station”) under the Hagana Bridge on Sunday.

Rami made his way to a series of benches under a sun shade facing Hagana Street underneath the train station bridge, a few meters from where the suitcase was found on a pedestrian staircase on Saturday.

The spot was a hive of activity 24 hours earlier, with dozens of police including the top detectives from the Tel Aviv District on the scene, but by Sunday afternoon it was business as usual. About 10 drug addicts sat in the shade, furtively lighting up glass pipes and inhaling smoke into their lungs.

“There’s no way a junkie could have done this. It takes effort, patience, hard work. A junkie’s not capable of that,” Rami said, holding his false front teeth in place with his left hand.

He said that after a woman’s body was found in a bathroom at the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station in June 2012, police detained and interrogated him, and took a DNA sample, before releasing him. Rami said he’s certain that he’ll be hauled in for questioning about this murder as well, and that it will remain unsolved just like the murder last June.

“Look at this guy, does this guy look like he can do anything? He’s a robot,” said Nadir, pointing at a hunched-over man stumbling past the bench and holding a glass pipe.

Nadir, an Arab who lives in the Hatikva neighborhood a bit to the east of the railway station, said he was not a user, but was hanging out with friends while they got high. He said that he didn’t know of any of his friends being taken in for questioning, but added that he saw detectives on Saturday night going through dumpsters in Hatikva.

“A lot of people here think it was a kushi [a derogatory term for a black man], that’s what I think too,” Nadir said, expressing the most common opinion encountered in the streets around the crime scene on Sunday.

Daniel, a middle-aged Israeli man sitting in an air-conditioned trailer next to the benches, said that while he had no idea who could have committed such a gruesome crime, it was partly a result of the growing lawlessness of the locality.

“This whole area is full of drug stations and anything goes here, there’s no law here,” Daniel said, adding that the neighborhood has only gotten less safe with the influx of tens of thousands of African migrants in recent years.

Robi Tivori, a young man working at an electronics shop at the corner of Hagana and Levanda streets, echoed those sentiments.

He spoke of brawls in the street involving large numbers of African men spilling out of a bar on the corner, but also of the constant sight of drug addicts shooting up on the sidewalks. He ventured that the victim may have been a prostitute murdered by an African migrant, but added that he really couldn’t imagine who would do such a thing.

“This is a new low, we’ve never had something like this down here,” he said.

Tivori’s store faces the pedestrian stairwell where the suitcase was found, about a block and a half away. Two large surveillance cameras are affixed over the door of the business, and Tivori said police had asked for the footage, but that unfortunately the cameras don’t save the recordings for long.

A couple of blocks away on Golomb Street sits a state-run rehab clinic and needle exchange, whence a few of the addicts from the benches on Hagana Street had migrated by mid-afternoon. Inside, an employee who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said that if the woman murdered was a addict, it could be a long time for someone to report her missing.

“If one of these girls goes missing, no one’s going to come looking for them. The only way is if her girlfriends notice after a while that she’s not around, maybe they’ll come to us or to the police, but otherwise, she could just disappear.”

He said police had come to collect video footage from the cameras at the auto repair place next door and from a few other local establishments. The entire area surrounding the site where the suitcase was dropped is covered by cameras, he said.

A veteran social worker in the neighborhood, he said that while there hasn’t been such a murder before, there’s a limit to how much shock can be expected.

“It won’t move anyone down here. There’s always some new tragedy here.

It will be forgotten if it’s not already.”

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