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Police now believe that Leonard (Aryeh) Karp, who died last week after being beaten by several drunken youths at a seaside promenade in Tel Aviv, escaped his attackers, collapsed and then fell into the water.

This scenario, reported to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch as he inspected the scene of the crime on Friday night, represents a departure from an earlier police version of events, which held that the youths had beaten Karp and then thrown him into the sea.

A group of eight men and two women, from Jaljulya, Kfar Sava and Petah Tikva, were detained by police shortly after the attack.

According to a senior police source, following a week-long investigation the Yarkon district investigative team concluded it could not rule out the possibility that Karp managed to escape his assailants.

Police officers told Aharonovitch they now believe it is possible that Karp escaped the youths and made his way toward the south end of the promenade in Tel Baruch, which ends with a locked gate and a fence. He may have tried to climb on the rocks to circumvent the fence and then collapsed, slipping into the sea. Another scenario presented to the minister was that Karp tried to make it to the water to wash his face after the attack, collapsed and fell in.

This version of events was further strengthened by testimony given by a couple, who told police they had seen Karp walking on his own after the time he was allegedly attacked.

The police source told Haaretz that even if this scenario was correct, it did not mitigate the grave suspicions against the youths. "This is a man that was savagely beaten. They even broke his skull. It's true he may have managed to walk away from the scene of the beating, and only died a little while later. Based on the autopsy, we can say that he didn't drown, but was beaten to death."

The officer told Haaretz he did not believe the suspects' indictments would be influenced by the new findings.

The severity of the indictments, which could range from manslaughter to murder, depend on many factors, such as the lack of provocation on the part of the victims, whether the killing was premeditated and the youths' intent.

"We're sure there wasn't provocation, and there was a kind of premeditation - a call from one of the suspects telling the others to come to the scene. As for the question of intent, intent can form during the event itself," the officer said.

"If there are witnesses who saw the victim escape the scene of the attack on his own, it means his death did not occur where the attack itself took place," said Asher Hen, who represents one of the suspects, a minor.

He stressed that the couple's testimony must be carefully examined, as it could significantly influence the investigation.

Prosecutors are expected to make their statements on the case at an early hearing this week, but it is not yet clear on what charges the suspects will be indicted.