Police nab run-away witness in Bar Noar murder

Manhunt over after police find, arrest Bar Noar witness; authorities to determine if his immunity deal can be salvaged.

June 22, 2013 20:31
3 minute read.
Suspect in Bar Noar shooting

Suspect in Bar Noar shooting 370. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

Police on Saturday caught the star witness in the Bar Noar murder case, hiding in a towel pantry underneath a sink in a Tel Aviv studio apartment.

After midnight on Wednesday night, he fled from his safe house in the city, triggering a man-hunt involving hundreds of police officers.

The witness did not resist arrest, police said. He is in custody at Tel Aviv District headquarters, where officers will have to try to persuade him to honor his deal to act as a state’s witness.

Police added that the witness had broken into the apartment on Yitzhak Sadeh Street where he was found.

The witness’s flight was a clear violation of the immunity deal he signed with police, giving them the right to arrest him on sight, officers said. The violation means police will have to examine whether they can go forward with the agreement, and officers from the Tel Aviv Central Investigative Unit are meeting with representatives of the State Attorney’s Office on the issue.

An official from the unit said on Saturday night that even though the witness spent more than two days on the run, police knew at all times where he was, and chose to trail him until the right opportunity to take him into custody.

It is believed that the witness spent most of the time in the North before returning to the central region. It emerged on Saturday that the witness and an associate checked into a small boutique hotel in Haifa on Thursday afternoon, hours after he had escaped.

Police were called to the hotel not long after, but the witness and his associate managed to slip away before officers arrived at the small hotel.

The incident has been a major embarrassment for Tel Aviv police, still reeling from a press conference on June 10 that turned into a public humiliation, when they reported details of the case to all major Israeli news outlets, while the case was still under a gag order.

On Thursday, Israel Police Insp.-Gen.

Yohanan Danino appointed a committee of inquiry to examine how the man managed to evade the detectives securing the safe house. The witness exited the bedroom window around 2 a.m., after it was assumed he had gone to sleep. Although detectives were posted both inside the apartment and outside the building, regulations did not allow them to enter the witness’s room after he closed the door and went to sleep.

Danino will also have to examine the decision not to place the man in the national witness protection program, leaving him in the care of Tel Aviv Central Investigative Unit detectives – partially to make it easier for them to call him in for meetings and court appearances. It would have been more difficult for him to escape if he had been staying outside Tel Aviv.

To make matters worse for police, while officers were scouring the Tel Aviv area and searching in the North, Channel 2 scored a sit-down interview with him.

During the interview, he said, “I’m like the walking dead. I’m alive but I’m dead on the inside. There is pressure on me from the police, who are waiting for results and pressure from the suspects and every second you’re worried about your life.”

The witness is key to the police case against the three suspects in the attack that killed two and wounded 11 at the Bar Noar LGBT youth center – Hagai Felician, Tarlan Hankeshayev and a third suspect, a relative of Felician who can’t be named because he was a minor at the time of the murders. The witness is the one who first came forward to police, breaking the case open.

If anything had happened to him while he was on the run, it could have dealt a mortal blow to the state’s case. 

The witness allegedly helped plan the August , 2009 shooting, which left two dead and 11 wounded. He signed an immunity deal as part of his agreement to testify, and spend the months leading up to the arrests working as a police agent, wearing a wire-tap and recording his conversations with the suspects.

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