State’s witness in Bar Noar case flees police safe house

Officers scramble to find key witness who was not yet in the national witness protection program, and therefore still living in the Tel Aviv area.

June 22, 2013 19:31
4 minute read.
Suspect in Bar Noar shooting

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


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The state’s key witness in the Bar Noar murder case disappeared from a police safe house late Wednesday night, sending officers scrambling across the Tel Aviv area to find him.

Israel Police Insp.-Gen.Yohanan Danino has appointed a committee of inquiry to examine how the man managed to slip away from the detectives securing the safe house. It is believed he exited the bedroom window after it was assumed he had gone to sleep.

Although detectives were posted both inside the apartment and at the building, regulations did not allow them to enter the witness’s room after he closed the door and went to sleep.

The witness was not yet in the national witness protection program, and therefore still living in the Tel Aviv area – partially for easier access to meetings with detectives and for eventual court appearances.

Had he been staying outside of Tel Aviv, it may have been more difficult for him to escape.

The witness was gone for several hours before detectives discovered he was missing. By Thursday night they still had not located him and were using all the means at their disposal to find him. There was concern he might try to flee the country, and airport authorities were notified.

As police continued to search for the witness, a reporter for Channel 2 managed to score a sitdown interview with the man. He spoke about his mental state and described what he said happened after the Bar Noar shooting in August 2009.

“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 said.

“I didn’t do it for money or so they’d erase my cases.

My conscience was haunting me and I wanted to settle an account,” the witness said, when asked about his motive for coming forward.

He also claimed that the day after the Bar Noar shooting, during which two people were killed and 15 wounded, he contacted officers from Tel Aviv’s central investigative investigative unit in order to tell them what happened, but he got cold feet by the time he met with them. The witness told Channel 2, “I gave them a very strong clue: I told them drop all your leads and focus on Shaul Ganon.”

Ganon is the former manager of the Bar Noar center for LGBT youth accused of the sexual assault of one of the three suspects who was 15 years old at the time.

This incident was the alleged motive for the shooting.

The man also claimed that two years after the shooting, Hagai Felician, the suspected trigger-man, said of Ganon “how is this son-of-a-b---- not dead? At least I killed a few others.”

The witness – a young gay relative of one of the three suspects in the 2009 shooting at the Tel Aviv youth center – is at the center of the police case against the three defendants, Hagai Felician, Tarlan Hankishayev and a third suspect, a relative of Felician’s who cannot be named because he was a minor when the crime occurred.

The witness broke the case when he came forward and told police he knew who carried out the shooting.

He said he helped the suspects plan the shooting, but has been given immunity in exchange for his testimony against Hankishayev who is a close relative of his and against the two other suspects.

The witness was in jail for a violent offense when he gave his testimony – the latest in a series of jail stints. His disappearance this week and the TV interview could potentially further call his character into question.

If something were to happen to the witness it could deal a mortal blow to the case. Nevertheless, they would still have the wiretap recordings he made in the few months he was working for police, as well as the Ganon’s testimony.

Ganon was arrested earlier this month for allegedly raping the then-under-age young defendant, but signed a deal last week that granted him immunity in exchange for becoming a state witness.

The witness’s disappearance is the latest embarrassment in the handling of the Bar Noar arrests by Tel Aviv police. Last Monday, police commanders held a press conference running down the details of the case, only for the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court to extend the gag order about a half-hour afterward.

The police was forced to tell crime reporters to remove all details of the case from their articles, which had already been widely published.

The incident turned a triumphant press conference into a public humiliation and led Danino to announce a moratorium on high-profile press conferences by police.

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