E. J'lem Man Charged With Staging Crash to Kill Two Wives, Daughters

Na'if Abu Sirhan, a Palestinian from the Jerusalem suburb of Jabel Mukabbar, was charged yesterday with staging a car accident last September to murder his wives and 10-year-old daughters. Both his wives and one of two daughters died, and the second daughter was badly injured when the car they were in rolled off the Ein Gedi-Jerusalem road into a 50-meter chasm.

Police suspect Sirhan's motives were dual: to collect the insurance money and end his miserable marriages to Nadra, 40, and Farial, 45, after getting involved with a third woman.

Sirhan gave numerous media interviews after he decided to donate the victims' organs for donation. In those interviews, he "reconstructed" the accident and described his ostensible efforts to rescue the trapped family members.

According to the indictment filed yesterday in the Jerusalem District Court, police arrived on the scene after a man telephoned to report an accident. But accident investigators soon realized that Sirhan's version of events was impossible. He said that a passenger bus had tailgated him, honking and flashing his lights to get Sirhan to clear the lane. Sirhan said he wanted to move onto to the shoulder, but that before he could find a safe place to stop, the bus rear-ended his car, a Volvo 940, causing it to veer into a chasm on the right. Reconstructions of the accident proved that the vehicle could not have rolled by accident to where it was found.

In the days following the accident, investigators learned of Sirhan's difficult relations with his wives, and heard testimony that he had beaten them on the day of the accident and the previous day. Additional testimony was collected from the 10-year-old daughter who survived the crash.

Police came to believe that they were dealing with a premeditated murder that was disguised as a traffic accident. They arrested Sirhan in early November on suspicion of murder and attempted murder. He denied the allegations, but after being confronted with the reconstruction findings, he changed his story completely.

In the new version, Sirhan claimed his car rolled down into the chasm after he had stopped on the side of the road to check the trunk but accidentally left the car in first gear. Police say that after the family spent several hours at Ein Gedi, they began driving back to Jerusalem on Route 90, but after just a few kilometers, Sirhan pulled over into a lookout point. He stopped the car a meter from the cliff edge, got out and removed lighter fluid from the trunk, then ignited the gas tank and pushed the car over the edge, with the women and girls trapped inside. The car hit the ground and burst into flames.

The indictment states that Sirhan tried to persuade his surviving daughter not to testify against him to juvenile investigators. When she called to tell him the police were on their way, he allegedly ordered her to say that she had fallen asleep on the drive and woke up only when the car began rolling into the chasm, even if the investigator threatens to slaughter her.