Suspected Serial Killer, Rapist Pleads Innocent in Haifa Court

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Serial murder suspect Fyodor Beshnery appears in Haifa Magistrates Court on May 2, 2016.
Serial murder suspect Fyodor Beshnery appears in Haifa Magistrates Court on May 2, 2016.Credit: Rami Shllush

Serial murder and rape suspect Fyodor Beshnery pleaded innocent in court on Monday to the allegations against him, before a judge agreed to let police keep the suspect in custody for another four days.

“I didn’t do it,” Beshnery said in Haifa Magistrates Court. He added, in Russian, that he misses his family and repeated his plea of innocence.

Beshnery, 26,of Haifa, who emigrated five years ago from a former Soviet state, was arrested 50 days ago on suspicion of slaying and possibly raping four women in different parts of the country between 2013 and 2015. He has a partner and the couple has a four-month-old daughter.

Leonid Perhovnick, a public defender representing the suspect, said his client  “has never admitted to anything and that this entire case has hit him like a ton of bricks.”

Perhovnick added that the suspect has replied to all the questions he was asked “and doesn’t refuse to speak like criminals do.”  

Lior Ronen, another public defender representing the accused, said Monday's session was stormy.

“As usual we feel the state leaves more cards in its hands than it needs to.  Most of the information is still secret," Ronen said.

After 50 days in custody the investigation should proceed more quickly, the attorney said. “Today police asked for another seven days and they got four,” said Ronen, adding that the sitiuation seemed to show that police lack sufficient evidence to prosecute the case.

An attorney for one of the victims similiary complained about the secrecy surrounding the case, with a police gag order still in force on many of its details.                              

Lawyer Tomer Ben-Hamo protested that he wasn’t permitted a role in the proceedings.

Ben-Hamo said the slain women’s daughters were in psychological crisis.

“Police refused to provide us with any details of the investigation. Police are trying to isolate the victim’s side from the process, but is it not the victim who is in the grave now?” Ben-Hamo said.

Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit has given special permission for Beshnery to be held in custody beyond a 30-day maximum.

Police opened the case against Beshnery, who has no criminal record, two months ago, in the aftermath of an inquiry into the case of a young woman found inside a torched apartment in southern Israel. An autopsy indicated murder. DNA and other digital evidence place Beshnery at the scene.

The case was kept under a gag order until April 26, when some of the details were first allowed to be published.

Police also suspect Beshnery’s involvement in two other murders and say he has confessed to at least one of the cases.

A fourth suspected murder by Beshnery occurred in the center of the country a little more than a year ago. Aside from a body found inside a charred apartment, there were other findings that were similar to those of the other murder scenes, but investigators still lack sufficient evidence to tie him to the case.

Beshnery's attorneys point to yet other problems with the case.

They say that contrary to police statements in the days since publicizing the case that Beshnery acted as a serial killer, the police have thus far only linked him to two murders, and he continues to deny any involvement in these cases as well.

Investigators are having trouble coming up with an identitical “signature” at all the crime scenes. In the case of the slaying in the central region, police are having trouble attributing the murder to Beshnery because no proof has been found yet that he was at the scene of the crime.

The murder there took place by asphyxiation before the fire occurred. Beshnery has not yet been questioned about this crime.

In the slaying in the north, the home was not set on fire, and this casts doubt on the theory police have promoted of there being a similar pattern of behavior on the murderer’s part.

The most significant progress in the case has been made with regard to the murder in the south where investigators say they have extracted a confession from the suspect.

Police also summoned someone close to the suspect and created a confrontation between them, then recorded part of their exchange. In the recording Beshnery could be heard threatening  that if the person says anything he will hurt him.

Police say he also confessed to another murder, but Ronen, the attorney, questions the admissibility of this confession he says was extracted after a 12 hour interrogation and following a threat that his partner would be arrested and lose her job. 

The lawyer has also asked the court to check into a claim that police are partially basing their case on information gleaned from eavesdropping on the suspect's conversations with his lawyer.

Ronen told Haaretz last week that the police’s implication that Beshnery is suspected of multiple sex crimes is untrue and misleading because only one sex crime has been mentioned in all the court hearings on his case.

 “His complaint against the unit that’s investigating him is that they have violated his basic rights,” Ronen said at the time.

“On top of that, he has already been under arrest for more than 40 days and despite this, the police have yet to show him any significant evidence linking him to the suspicions against him, which prevents him from mounting any defense.”

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