Soccer player probed for murder to stay in custody

Court accepts police appeal, overturns previous ruling to release foreign player to house arrest, saying he poses flight risk.

Ambulance at site of woman's death in Netanya 370 (photo credit: A. Yaakov/News 24 )
Ambulance at site of woman's death in Netanya 370
(photo credit: A. Yaakov/News 24 )
Lod District Court on Friday ordered that a foreign player in Israel's top soccer league suspected of involvement in the death of 20-year-old Zehava Chikol remain in custody, overturning a lower court's ruling to release him to house arrest.
Police had appealed the earlier Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court decision to release the suspect and allow him to play in a league game on Saturday.
The player, whose name is banned from publication, was arrested on Wednesday night along with a friend, a Congo native, on suspicion of murdering Chikol, whose body was found half-naked outside Netanya’s Carmel Hotel.
The suspect will remain in custody until at least Wednesday after District Court Judge Ahikam Stoller ruled that the man was a flight risk because he is a citizen of a foreign country.
Chikol was discovered by passersby Wednesday morning, and at first police suspected she might have committed suicide, even though there were signs of violence on her body.
After the results of her autopsy became available Thursday afternoon police determined that she died from strangulation and was possibly thrown from the window of the hotel.
The player and his friend, aged 30, share an apartment at the hotel. The player told police that Chikol had been in his apartment along with his friend on Tuesday night, adding that at one point his wife saw Chikol in the background while the player spoke to her on Skype, leading to an argument between them.
The player said that at some point Chikol left and that neither he nor Akalsongo know where she went or what caused her death. The player has also stated that he did not know Chikol personally, and had only met her on Tuesday through his roommate.
On Thursday, the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court extended the soccer player's friend's remand by seven days.
A paramedic who arrived at the scene on Wednesday night said that police were initially describing the death as a suicide, saying that the woman fell from the third floor, only later changing their assessment, saying that she was thrown from the room after an argument of some sort.