The Prisons Service bears no blame for last year’s jail-cell suicide of TV star
Dudu Topaz, the Ramle Magistrate’s Court ruled on Sunday.
Tarsi, who presided over a judicial investigation into the death of Topaz in
Nitzan Prison in August 2009, determined that Topaz took his own his life
despite the best efforts of the Prisons Service personnel to prevent such an act
and despite being held in accordance with the regulations regarding prisoners
with suicidal tendencies.
Topaz, 62, a comedian, actor, screenwriter,
playwright, author and radio and television host who once was the nation’s No. 1
TV star, was in prison for ordering assaults on three TV executives he blamed
for his failure to return to television.
On August 20, 2009, he was found
dead in the bathroom stall of his cell in Nitzan Prison.
One of his
prison mates found him lying on the bathroom floor with an electrical cable
noosed around his neck, attached to the one-meter high bathroom
On the same day, the police requested that an investigation into
his death be opened, as required by law in any prison death. The investigation
took place over four months and in January 2010, its results were brought before
The judge later passed on the investigation material to
Topaz’s brother Micky Goldenberg, so that the family could address any
shortcomings or grievances.
According to Tarsi’s ruling, the police
investigation focused on two main tracks, first the cause of death, and second
any possible negligence on the part of the Prisons Service that might have led
to the death.
The autopsy revealed that Topaz died as a result of self-administered strangulation, hanging himself from the sink faucets with an
electrical cable from an electric kettle found in the room.
given shortly after the event corroborate each other and create a clear picture
according to which the deceased conducted the suicide by himself, with no need
of external assistance and without the involvement of anybody else,” read the
ruling. The judge also ruled out the possibility of anybody else being involved
in preparation, planning or encouragement of the suicide.
Topaz’s desire to kill himself were strengthened by a note that he had left for
his brother, written in code, apologizing for his deeds, expressing love to his
children and instructing him on actions to take on his behalf after his
The investigators also reported that despite the fact that not all
the instructions regarding the overseeing of Topaz’s imprisonment were followed
precisely as required by regulations, the conditions under which he were held
were as close to complete as possible and Topaz’s successful suicide could not
be attributed to action or lack thereof of the prison
“Perusal of the files reveals that there was a high level of
awareness among Nitzan Prison staff as to the importance of supervising the
condition of the deceased and every development was reported on and received
answers,” read the ruling.
On one occasion, after Topaz expressed his
intention to harm himself, the warden ordered him bound and kept under
“The required conclusion is that the deceased’s
condition was awarded unique, perhaps even unprecedented attention on the part
of the authorities,” the ruling read.
The judge determined that despite a
failed suicide attempt and despite repeated expressions of his suicidal thoughts
to his cellmates, there was no indication that he would commit the act in the
days and hours prior to the deed.
“I believe, and this is only an
estimate, that the deceased fluctuated between extreme conditions of hope and
despair and that when he woke up that morning, despair got the better of him. In
any case, no blame should be placed on the prison authorities who did their best
to aid and protect him,” the judge said.
The judge also rejected
suggestions that what drove Topaz to kill himself were disciplinary actions
taken against him by the prison cell.
The judge did point out two
regulation infractions by the Prisons Service, but determined that they did not
One infraction was the requirement that Topaz be under
constant monitoring in all sections of the cell. That requirement was not met,
since there was no camera in the bathroom. The second infraction was the
presence of the electric cable he killed himself with in the room.
judge said that though the regulations weren’t followed in full, Topaz received
the best supervision available in the prison, in the cell next to the guard’s
table, and that it was yet to be determined in court whether it is even legal to
place cameras in the bathroom.
The judge said that nobody in the prison
services had considered the possibility that an electrical cable could be used
for such a purpose.
He noted that the Prisons Service had recently
conducted a comprehensive study on suicide prevention and was in the midst of a
system-wide reform in the treatment of at-risk prisoners.
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