Evidence of ‘Rape Drug’ Gets Israeli Man Convicted

Nazareth court accepts finding from test on a sample of victim’s hair taken months after the crime was committed

Nazareth District Court
Gil Eliahu

On Thursday, for the first time in Israel, the Nazareth District Court accepted as legal evidence a test that detected the presence of a “rape drug,” which was taken from a hair. The sampling came from the hair of a woman who complained in 2016 that she was the victim of an indecent act while under the influence of a rape drug. The sampling was taken months after the crime was committed.

District Court Judge Hana Sabag convicted Shmuel Ben Abu, 58, of crimes including preventing the ability to resist, receiving something fraudulently under aggravated circumstances, extortion under threat, theft, taking assets for the purpose of extortion and money laundering, based on the findings of the test.

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The court said that although the test for discovering a rape drug produced from a hair has yet to be examined in Israeli courts, in the United States, England and Canada it has been one of the leading pieces of evidence in many rulings – in criminal proceedings and even in labor and family courts.

The test was done by Italian Prof. Franco Tagliaro, an international expert in the field. For the test, several biological liquids were taken from the hair in several places – blood from beneath the skull, a fatty liquid from the milk gland in the hair, and a liquid from the sweat gland attached to the hair.

According to the indictment, for years Ben Abu, who lives in the western Galilee, used to add a rape drug to drinks he gave to women he met under various circumstances. He allegedly performed indecent acts on his victims and even filmed them in the nude and extorted hundreds of thousands of shekels from them.

Ben Abu was alleged to have added a rape drug to a cup of coffee he bought for the woman in whose home he was doing repairs. Then he took her to a guest house room and stayed with her for three hours, after which she didn’t recall what happened.

That same day he stole her cell phone and a few days later lied and said that the thieves had sent her a notice demanding 170,000 shekels ($49,000) in exchange for the phone, or they would post the intimate pictures that he had taken. A hair sampling was taken from the woman and sent by the Health Ministry to the laboratory in Italy in January 2017.

A Health Ministry doctor once explained to Haaretz that “the great difficulty in proving the use of the rape drug stems from the fact that the substance disappears from the body within eight to 10 hours, so its use was hard to prove. By the time the victim understands what happened and comes to complain and be tested, it’s too late to find the drug.” But advanced lab tests from the victim’s hair make it possible to locate the drug afterwards, sometimes up to six months later.

The family of rape drugs includes substances with an anesthetic effect, and substances that slow brain activity and the central nervous system. In the past an attempt to use a lab test from a hair as evidence could not provide conclusive proof that the amount of the substances discovered was beyond the normal level produced by the human body.