An Israeli man was convicted of aggravated murder on Wednesday for fatally stabbing his wife multiple times in front of their baby daughter, in a case that rattled the country in 2019.
In October of that year, Eliran Malul stabbed Michal Sela to death in the presence of their 8-month-old daughter, Jerusalem District Court judges ruled on Wednesday. The sentencing hearing will be held on January 25, 2022. In the meantime, Malul will remain in custody.
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The lawyer representing Sela’s family said Malul’s conviction for murder under aggravating circumstances with exceptional brutality expresses “the social disgust from the brutal killing” and the verdict is “just and necessary.”
The indictment, filed November 2019, stated that Malul stabbed Sela 11 times in the presence of their daughter and then tried to take his own life. Prosecutors said Malul wounded her in the head, dragged her and stabbed her torso as she tried to defend herself with her remaining strength.
The judges, Arnon Darel, Eli Abravanel, and Haya Zandberg, wrote in their ruling that it was not possible to know whether the infant saw or heard the murder.
"The emphasis must be placed on the psychological state of the victim during the incident, who during her last moments was aware that her baby daughter was only a few meters away from her, in the same room or nearby to her, who could be exposed to the terrible sights, and her own fate was also completely in the hands of a man who was killing her," the judges wrote. "To all this is added the clear knowledge of the defendant that in taking the deceased’s life, he was taking away his daughter's mother."
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Malul denied the charges, saying that Sela had attacked him first. He claimed Sela stabbed him, and after she refused to call an ambulance, he fainted and found her dead when he woke up. Dr. Chen Kugel, the director of the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv, testified in court that the likelihood that Malul was stabbed by someone else was very low. Prosecutors also said that the way Malul described the stabbing did not match the fact that Sela was left-handed.
In his testimony, Malul claimed that Sela abused and taunted him, and that his actions were a reaction. The judges rejected these claims, calling them baseless. He also said he was drunk on the night of the murder.
The indictment said Malul had been possessive of Sela, demanding that she sever ties with other couples and female friends, and that Sela considered divorcing him. She had discussed her difficulty in making a decision with relatives and friends, “and even wrote about it on several occasions,” according to the ndictment.
He was suspected of crimes against previous partners – including indecent acts, false imprisonment and breaking in to their homes – but these crimes were not part of the indictment. Six of his former partners testified against him to the police about their relationships. Two reported physical violence against them, and the others reported psychological abuse.