What can, or should, families do?

By
July 9, 2009 11:35
2 minute read.

 
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Should a family with a missing person just sit back and let the police do their job, or should they get involved in the investigation? With years of hindsight, Yossi Yaakobi says that one of the biggest mistakes that he and his ex-wife Betty made was to not be more proactive in the case. But, he adds, it was virtually impossible to do so for them at the beginning of their ordeal due to the shock. "When Adi disappeared, the police were at the house every day, or we were at the police. I wasn't fully in control of my faculties during that time. They told me, 'Sit here,' 'Go to there,' and I just did what they said. I was like a zombie," he says. "We even had all the protektzia [pull] back then - the public security minister was Avigdor Kahalani, one of my best friends. He would come to our home frequently. But even so, I don't know how serious the investigation was. They told us once they sent an officer to the brush in Ramat Poleg with a machete. What's that nonsense? One officer with a machete? What good is that going to do? "I think in retrospect that a family needs to take a private investigator to accompany the police in their work - to be their advocate. The police then see that there's someone else active in the case, and maybe lights a fire under them to do a more thorough job. They need to know there's someone else on the case." The police cite constraints for resources like cellphone checking, DNA testing, helicopters and hours of police manpower for cases which remain open indefinitely. There's no law here that states that searches for missing people should be conducted by the police. But historically, because there was no other body to take care of it, it fell to the police - despite the fact that a missing person is not necessarily connected to a crime. Yossi thinks, perhaps because of that, that the police just aren't built to handle missing-person cases. "It's not like the US where there are missing people every minute. I don't think there's an organized form of investigation yet that the police have set up here for missing persons. They came to our home a year later to look for Adi's hair strands on her comb for DNA. That should have happened on the first or second day," he says. Betty Yaakobi, who over the years has remained more active than Yossi in the case, says she has no complaints against the police. "Everything I've asked from the police they've done. How they've done it, I have no idea. But I know I can call and talk to them," she says. "Every so often, the contact at the police changes and someone new comes in, then I have to get used to someone new all over again. It's happened at least three times in the 12 years. It's all luck, depending on whom you end up with. With each one, I have to learn how to talk to them." What advice would Yossi give to a family that finds themselves in the circumstances he landed in 12 years ago? Get involved at the beginning, down to even seemingly mundane details. "You need to make color portraits of the missing person right away - they're much better than black and white - there's a big difference. And get the local authorities to post them everywhere within a day or two. It took us two or three years to do that."

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