A former Haaretz journalist urged a court yesterday to retract a decision ordering him to name the police source who gave him information about an investigation into the murder of actress Anat Elimelech in 1997.

On November 20, the Jerusalem Family Court ordered Sammy Sokol to reveal his source in response to a suit by the Elimelech family.

The suit charged that the police had injured the family by leaking, or least not preventing, reports to the media claiming that Elimelech was suspected of having murdered her spouse, David Afuta, and then committing suicide.

Investigators later concluded that it was actually Afuta who had murdered Elimelech.

Police now suspect that Afuta's brothers, who discovered the bodies, took the pistol they found alongside him and placed it in Elimelech's hand instead, leading investigators to believe that she was the murderer.

Four journalists, including Sokol, testified during hearings on the suit that their initial reports saying that Elimelech was the suspected killer were based on information from police sources.

However, both the policemen involved in the investigation and senior officers from the Jerusalem District Police denied ever having spoken with journalists.

In his submission to the court yesterday, Sokol argued that the court does not need to know the identity of his police source to determine the police department's responsibility for the reports.

The very fact that four journalists from competing newspapers all said they received their information from the police, and that the published reports themselves all attributed the information to "police sources," should be sufficient, he said.

Moreover, he argued, police reports to journalists from crime scenes are in the public interest and should therefore not be discouraged by forcing the journalists to reveal their sources.