Suspected serial killer accused of Bennett murder worked for years as police informant
The man believed to have killed American-Israeli teen Dana Bennett is a suspected serial killer responsible for at least three other murders over the last 14 years - and also worked for several years as a police informant planted in jail cells to get information from other prisoners.
This information, which the Northern District Police confirmed, came to light after a gag order on the Bennett case was lifted yesterday.
However, police said, they stopped using Adwan Farhan, 33, as an informant once it became clear that his information could not be trusted.
"He was a snitch," said a man well-versed in Farhan's work for the police. "He played this role several years ago, but to the best of my knowledge, he did not do so in recent years. The police used him to try to extract confessions from arrested men, or to hear from him about all kinds of problematic plans by the prisoners."
Farhan's family also confirmed that he was a police plant.
"They never left him alone," said one relative. "Sometimes he would be in one jail, and suddenly they would bring him home and then take him to another place."
Among the people he is suspected of killing is Aharon Simahov, who was sharing a Tiberias jail cell with Farhan when he was killed in March 2004. The murder was faked to look like suicide. But police said that by that point, Farhan was no longer working as an informant.
Bennett disappeared in 2003, when she was 18, while on the way home from her job in Tiberias. For the next six years, despite numerous searches, her fate remained unknown.
Last week, police announced that they had finally found her body, but put a gag order on all other details of the investigation. Yesterday, however, they disclosed the killer's identity and explained how they got on his track.
"Dana Bennett was kidnapped, murdered - but not raped," said Chief Superintendent Avi Algarissi at a press conference to announce the findings.
Farhan "killed for the sake of killing," Algarissi said. "According to our inquiries so far, the suspect is believed to have committed four counts of murder ... one attempted murder, rapes, two attempted kidnappings and other crimes of violence." The first murder was committed in 1995, when he was 18: He battered a man unconscious and threw him into the Jordan River.
Farhan, a resident of Wadi Hamam in northern Israel, was already in custody on unrelated charges - the alleged rape of an Australian tourist - when Bennett's body was found. He has also been arrested many times previously, for sexual offenses, arms possession and armed robbery. In 2004 or 2005, he allegedly tried to murder his sister, but failed.
Algarissi said that Farhan confessed to Bennett's murder just a few days ago. He also reenacted it and voiced regret for the crime.
The breakthrough in the case came when a piece of "exceptional and valuable" information reached the Amakim District Police last month, Algarissi said. This information led them to a 22-year-old woman from Tiberias, a former girlfriend of Farhan's who had previously been questioned in connection with Bennett's disappearance.
To the detectives' surprise, she accused Farhan of responsibility for another unsolved murder, that of Sylvia Molrova, a 27-year-old Czech tourist. Molrova's battered body was found near the Tzalmon River, in northern Israel, in July 2003, less than a month before Bennett disappeared.
The ex-girlfriend told the police that she and Farhan ran into Molrova while hiking along the river, and that Farhan brutally beat the tourist and threw her body into the water.
She also described the events leading to Bennett's murder. On August 1, 2003, just after midnight, she said, she and Farhan were driving in Tiberias when they spotted Bennett, who had just disembarked from a minibus near her uncle's house. After much persuasion, the two convinced Bennett to get in the car, and Farhan allegedly battered her to death shortly afterward.
Dana's mother, Vicky, and other relatives met late Monday night with Algarissi, who headed the police team assigned to her case, to hear the details of Dana's murder.
"It was very hard for us to hear these things, but we wanted to know everything and asked many questions," Vicky said. "It relieved me to hear that the murderer did not rape Dana and that she did not suffer. These last six years have been difficult for me, because Dana, before she disappeared, underwent long and difficult head surgery, so I hoped the whole time that they did not strike her on the head - and that was the case. I wanted to know that she did not suffer."
Bennett also said that she does not want the death penalty for the killer.
"I want the murderer to sit in prison, so that he will rot inside and suffer each day," she said. "In my eyes he is not a human, he is an animal. And what can be said about an animal?"
Dana Bennett was born in Chicago in 1985. Her parents divorced when she was five and her mother returned to Tiberias, leaving Bennett to be raised by her father in Los Angeles. Later, however, her father sent her to high school in Israel.