11 Years After Model's Murder, Police Deny Leaking Details to Press

The family of a man accused of murdering an Israeli actress and model 11 years ago said yesterday that any police officers lying about whether they leaked information to the press should not receive immunity.

Though more than a decade has passed since the December 1997 murder-suicide of Anat Elimelech and her boyfriend, David Afuta, the case is still making its way through the judicial system, as journalists argue with police over who was responsible for leaking the initial allegation that Elimelech killed Afuta. Police later said forensic tests revealed the boyfriend had been the killer.

Former Haaretz reporter Sammy Sokol told the Jerusalem Family Court 10 days ago there was no need to know the identity of the source. Sokol and two other reporters who covered the story for other newspapers all said police officials leaked the allegation.

However, the police officials responsible for investigating the murder-suicide denied responsibility for the leak. The court ordered Sokol to reveal his source, but Sokol refused - creating a forum for an extended debate over the relationship between the police and the press and the importance of journalistic immunity.

The Afuta family said Sokol gave up his immunity when he told the court that one of the police officials who had denied being the source of the leak was the one who updated him, though Sokol did not give a specific name.

Sokol said the fact that journalists from competing papers all said they received their information from the police and that they reported similar information shows that the police were indeed responsible for leaking the information.

The ongoing debate was part of a NIS 9.25 million lawsuit filed by the Elimelech family in 2005 against the Afuta family and the police. The suit alleges NIS 6 million in lost earnings and NIS 3 million in damage to Elimelech's reputation and the family's good name. It also cites emotional pain and suffering and accuses the police of negligence for causing or not preventing the news items accusing Elimelech. It also accuses the police of allowing Afuta's brothers, Yosef and Shmuel, to alter the crime scene.

The brothers allegedly moved the gun to Elimelech's hand to create the appearance that she had murdered Afuta and committed suicide.

Jerusalem detectives and police officials deny having spoken with reporters and rejected any responsibility for the reports.