A Hair's Breadth Away

Prosecutors Decide Not to Investigate a Possible Suspect in Murder of Tair Rada

The police received information four years ago regarding a possible suspect but didn't attempt to match the hairs found at the scene of the crime to her DNA.

Parents of murder victim Ta'ir Rada hold up her picture at court in Nazareth, September 14, 2010.
Yaron Kaminsky

After ten years, with a District Court conviction upheld by the Supreme Court and an endless stream of articles analyzing all the details, one would have expected that questions surrounding the murder of 13-year-old Tair Rada would have subsided by now. However, more questions still linger over the conviction of Roman Zadorov for the crime. Over the years, questions regarding the conduct of police and state prosecutors have only increased. The most recent one relates to DNA tests that were conducted on hairs found in the bathroom stall in which Rada was murdered. It turns out that even though three hairs found there were not the girl’s or Zadorov’s, that when the name of a possible suspect surfaced, a match between her and the hair was not investigated.

The suspect is A.K., whose story was told last week in a series called “Shadow of Truth”, which aired on Channel 8. Facing the camera, her ex-partner, A.H., related that several hours after the murder, A.K. told him in detail how she had done it. Six years later he went to the police with the information. The two were questioned in 2012 but prosecutors believed that the man was incriminating A.K. due to a messy separation. DNA tests on A.K. were conducted in order to test whether there was a match with blood found under Rada’s fingernails. However, the blood was Rada’s alone. “Following a request by state prosecutors, the results of the DNA tests were re-examined,” says a document obtained by Haaretz, which was signed by Dr. Mia Freund from the Institute for Forensic Medicine. “This re-examination also failed to find a mixture of profiles, other than the genetic profile of the deceased. There is no indication of another profile that could have originated in foreign material under her nails.”

The file also contains additional items that do not fit neither Zadorov’s or Rada’s genetic profiles, including three hairs that were sent for examination to the U.S. in 2007. For unknown reasons, these were not compared to A.K.’s DNA.

Despite the existence of these hairs, prosecutors say that other than the material found under Rada’s fingernails, there was no other DNA that could be used for matching, since the blood at the scene belonged to the girl. They also claim that fingerprints at the scene did not match A.K.’s. This fact is supposedly explained by A.H.’s testimony: He says that A.K. showed him gloves and a wig she had used. Yet it's possible that she did not use these items, or that she was not involved in the murder and that he fabricated the whole story.

However, the DNA question remains. Prosecutors say that A.K.’s DNA profile was fed into the system and that any match would have been discovered. However, talking to experts reveals that things are not that simple. They say that putting her information into the database would not necessarily have found a match, since the hairs at the scene had no genomic DNA-containing roots, which is why they were sent overseas for mitochondrial DNA testing. Comparing the genomic data in the DNA database and the hairs could not have yielded results.

“Databases around the world, not just in Israel, use genomic DNA”, explains Dr. Yoram Plotzky of GGA, a company that tests DNA for the justice system. “Mitochondrial DNA isn’t good enough for unequivocal identification but it’s sufficient for excluding someone as a suspect.” He says that his company does these tests, which take a few weeks and cost several thousands of shekels.

The prosecution’s 2012 decision to compare A.K.’s DNA only with material found under Rada’s fingernails was prompted by A.H.’s testimony to the police. The recommendation to compare A.K.'s DNA with this material also appears in a file on A.H.'s computer, which was seized by the police that year. Prosecutors thought this was a draft A.H. had prepared before giving his testimony to the police, indicating that he was fabricating his testimony.

This argument surfaced in the state’s opposition to a request made in 2012 by Zadorov’s attorneys to thoroughly investigate A.K.'s involvement and present the court with further evidence. The Supreme Court returned the case to the District Court so that it could look at additional evidence. However, this included only professional opinions on the shoe prints and the type of knife used in the murder. Suspicions relating to A.K. were excluded. The content of the document that was written before A.H. turned to the police is now revealed for the first time in Haaretz. “She waited for a while in a closed stall and emerged when she heard someone coming in alone. She pulled [the victim] in and locked it from inside. Then she climbed out over the toilet seat”, A.H. recounts his partner’s alleged actions. “After the deed she stretched her out on the floor in order to play with her.”

A.H. describes the shoes A.K. had worn and relates it to the three shoe prints, which did not belong to Zadorov, that were found on the blood-stained floor on the way out of the stall. “She wore size 38-39 but I don’t remember the make, probably from Ukraine. The three unclear prints probably belong to her.” He adds: “She bit the victim’s neck to see what it felt like (wanting to eat humans) under Tair’s fingernails there should be some genetic material originating in her attempts to defend herself everything except the knife was immersed in bleach for a few days and then hidden for a month in an attic at her mother’s house. These items were then thrown away in different garbage cans around the city... I don't believe she would have stepped on her, she related to her as a prize, a jewel or something sacred.”

This description was written long after the details of the murder scene became public knowledge. Nevertheless, not all the details matched the evidence at the scene. Someone familiar with the case said that no bite marks were found on Rada’s body, contrary to A.H.’s version. There were no marks of injury on her belly, which he thought there would have been.

Another document that was found on his computer was a letter addressed to law enforcement agencies: “My name is A.H. I have information about the murder of Tair Rada which I’d like to share. Last week I contacted Moshe Shetach from the VIP unit in Holon, whom I knew in my job as a security officer at the Forensic Institute. I had given him other information in the past, and last week I told him about this case. He told me he’d refer it to another official. A week has gone by and no one has called me. I turned to a lawyer and was advised to approach you in this manner.”

A.H.’s contact with the police didn’t end there. After he’d turned to them regarding the murder, he was interrogated about a complaint filed by A.K., who had accused him of rape a month earlier. She retracted her complaint shortly afterwards, and the case was closed for lack of evidence. A.H. was also accused of filing false statements and was detained for 11 days. At one point his attorney demanded that he be given a polygraph test. The police did not do so, but in a test conducted by the producers of “Shadow of Truth,” he was asked, among other questions, if it was true that A.K. had shown him the blood-stained clothes in her bag and a serrated hunting knife covered in blood. He answered in the affirmative and was found to be telling the truth.

The case against A.H. giving false statements was closed for lack of sufficient evidence. Despite this, and despite opposition by the state to introduce evidence relating to A.K. into the Rada case, people involved in the matter believe that it is impossible to totally ignore the possibility that A.K. told A.H. of her involvement in the murder and that he believed it.