Police: Man faked crash, killed family

Naif Abu Sarhan accused of pushing the family car into a gorge for romantic, financial motives.

accident 224 88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
accident 224 88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
A father cast as a hero after donating his daughter's organs following a catastrophic accident is now standing trial, suspected of murdering her and his two wives and of staging the accident to cover up his alleged nefarious designs. On September 10, Naif Abu Sarhan alerted police to the scene of a crash, in which the car in which he was driving with his family had tumbled down a steep decline by the side of the road. Rescue teams rushing to the scene retrieved the bodies of Sarhan's two wives and five-year-old daughter. A second daughter, also in the vehicle, survived the crash and was hospitalized in serious condition. A tearful Sarhan was photographed by news teams in the hospital following the crash, as he explained his decision to donate the organs of his dead daughter. "To save the life of a person is the greatest honor for me," he said at the time. Now, almost two-and-a-half months later, police announced on Sunday that Sarhan would be charged with three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, after detectives uncovered major inconsistencies in his tale - as well as two motives for murder. Detectives say Sarhan exited the vehicle and then stood by as it sped off the cliff, in order to receive payments for his wives' deaths from the National Insurance Institute and to clear the way for a romantic relationship. Immediately after the crash, Abu Sarhan told police that the family had been returning to Jerusalem from a day out in Ein Gedi when a bus had come up behind their vehicle, closed in on the car and begun honking its horn and flashing its lights. Abu Sarhan claimed he had attempted to find a spot where he could move to the shoulder and allow the bus to overtake him, but that before he could do so, the bus slammed into the car's rear end, pushing it off the right side of the road and into the chasm. According to his account, he then managed to climb out of the wreckage and back onto the road, where he stopped a passing vehicle and asked for help. However, according to Dep.-Cmdr. Eli Mikmel, head of the Samaria and Judea Police District's Central Investigative Unit, crash scene investigators were immediately suspicious because of discrepancies between Abu Sarhan's account and the evidence on the road. In addition, Mikmel said, police received intelligence information from the Jerusalem District leading them to consider the possibility that the incident was a murder. Police set up a special investigative team that conducted a covert inquiry into the incident. All details of the proceedings were then placed under a gag order. Eventually, police concluded that Abu Sarhan had staged the crash to rid himself of his family in order to live with his lover, while enjoying the insurance money gained from their deaths. Mikmel said investigators believed that Abu Sarhan had coached his surviving daughter, instructing her to lie before the juvenile investigator questioned her. Abu Sarhan was arrested on November 4 and denied all charges, standing by his initial version of events. After being confronted with investigators' findings, Abu Sarhan changed his account: Removing all mention of a bus, he claimed he had stopped the car on the roadside in order to check the trunk, but accidentally left the car in first gear, leading it to slide forward and fall into the gorge while he stood outside. "It's all just lies... I am innocent," said Abu Sarhan outside court Sunday, claiming that he had made up the story about the bus because he was "afraid" - although he did not say of what.