Israel Police Reconsider Ruling Couple's Deaths Suicide Following Document Obtained by Haaretz

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Ziv Matushka and Natalie Bar.
Ziv Matushka and Natalie Bar.Credit: Nimrod Katzir

When the bodies of Ziv Matushka and Natalie Bar were found in their Be’er Sheva home last month, their friends assumed economic despair had driven them to commit suicide together. The police concurred.

A tragic combination of economic, mental and family circumstances led several people who knew and loved the couple to not be surprised by the double death. Still, the friends also admitted that the couple was insular. No one really knows what happened inside their home. The riddle remains unresolved.

Haaretz obtained a document it has passed on to the police that casts doubt on the narrative that the coronavirus crisis had driven the couple to joint suicide, as some media outlets suggested.

Matushka, 49, and Bar, 48, were very well known in Tel Aviv’s nightlife and electronic music scene. Matushka worked for years as a sound man with artists like Assaf Amdursky, Eran Zur and Eviatar Banai. Musicians described him as a genius and one of a kind in his field. The knowledge buried with him can never be recreated, one of them told us.

Matushka also made his own music, including as a duo with his partner Natalie. However, his alternative, dark style didn’t really allow him to break through with a broad audience. He earned most of his money through studio work, teaching at the Muzik music school and giving private lessons to DJs. Muzik closed in 2017. Matushka, whom his friends describe as having been shy, struggled to earn a living. He and Natalie had moved in 2015 to Be’er Sheva, where he had grown up after emigrating from Hungary with his family.

They had moved there in part to live near and take care of Matushka’s aging father, who was very ill. His only other relative in Israel, a cousin who also lived in Be’er Sheva, helped him get settled and gave him financial support. While they were in touch, it wasn’t very intimate. She had moved to Israel from Georgia in 1991, according to Bar’s acquaintances, and was barely in touch with her immediate family in Israel.

Months before the deaths of Matushka and Bar, his father died. People who saw Matushka at the funeral say the emotional burden weighed on him. Few if any knew the couple could barely make rent. Their landlord spread out payments for them, but they couldn’t afford those either and they faced eviction but died before that happened.

Their bodies were found in the villa-lined neighborhood of Ramot. A neighbor described them as a friendly, quiet couple that listened to electronic music at night but was never a nuisance. They rarely hosted friends. People who knew them over the years said the couple were closed to the world and barely let anyone inside their intimate circle.

The house where the couple lived in Be'er Sheva, June 8, 2020.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

All their friends and acquaintances told us they seemed like a loving couple. “They had a great love,” Matushka’s cousin said. Another friend likened their life and death to “Romeo and Juliet.” Police assumed the same. No one suspected a much darker reason.

The initial evidence also raised suspicions. Matushka was found lying in the bedroom and Bar was hanging on the balcony. The evidence suggested he had died 10 hours before her. Thus, it was ruled out that he could have murdered her. Police concluded the couple had decided to commit suicide together because they found two hanging ropes and no one had reported violence between them. They believed Bar had taken pills with Matushka, woken up after several hours and hung herself. (The second noose was also a backup plan, police believed.) So no autopsy was performed, just some non-invasive tests and a toxologial test whose results are unknown.

However, Haaretz received information last week that Bar had expressed fear several years ago that Matushka might hurt her. She had actually petitioned the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court in August 2014 to issue a restraining order against threatening harassment. “I feel I’ve become his victim,” she declared. “I fear he will commit cold-blooded, calculated murder.” Bar claimed to some people that Matushka had “cruelly” abused her emotionally for over a decade, which she described as “methodic emotional abuse.”

The unit investigating the case had not been aware of this information before receiving it from Haaretz. In response, police decided immediately to petition the court for an order regarding someone it believes has information similar to what Haaretz received. Police are also expected to petition the court to access electronic correspondences between the two.

Police, working with the prosecutor, is now expanding the investigation in two divergent directions. Did Bar kill Matushka and then herself, or did he plant the idea of committing suicide together as part of the emotional abuse? They still haven’t ruled out the joint suicide scenario.

Police are still trying to piece together what Bar did in the 10 hours between Matushka’s death and her own, if and for how long she was unconscious or if she even took pills with Matushka. Haaretz received information that Bar called a close friend in the hours before her death and said things that made him fear for her life. The person also told a relative, who passed the information on to police. However, she was dead by the time police officers arrived. Resuscitation efforts were futile.

Police said the matter is under investigation and all directions are being checked.

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