Three Israelis Arrested Over Unsolved Murders 35 Years Ago

The suspects are members of the Hasidic sect led by Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who in the past did prison time for sexual offenses

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One of the suspects arrested on Sunday.
One of the suspects arrested on Sunday.Credit: Israel Police

Two men and a woman in their 60s were arrested early Sunday on suspicion of involvement in a murder and a suspected murder in the Jerusalem area in the mid-1980s and early 90s.

The suspects, all Jerusalem residents, were brought to court Sunday, where their detentions were extended by a week. Prior to their court appearance they were interrogated on suspicions of abduction, murder and conspiracy to commit a crime. 

The suspects, the police say, are members of the Shuvu Banim Hasidic sect led by Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who has done prison time for sexual offenses.

One of the two cases from the '80s and '90s is of a teenager, Nissim Shitrit, missing since 1986 and believed to have been murdered.

The special team that investigated Shitrit’s disappearance at the time questioned dozens of witnesses and suspected that a Dutch resident named Mike Reynolds became friends with Shitrit and gave him money, with Shitrit eventually becoming a drug smuggler for Reynolds.

The team visited the Eilat port, where Reynolds worked, and also interrogated Reynolds in the Netherlands, but he denied knowing Shitrit. The investigation then reached a dead end.

The suspects were also allegedly involved in the 1990 murder of 41-year-old Avraham Edri, who left the yeshiva where he worked and was found dead in Jerusalem's Ramot Forest the next day. There were signs he was a victim of violence.

The murder was extensively covered in the media at the time. It was reported that Edri received a phone call from a person he did not know, which led to his visit to the forest. In the evening, Edri’s wife reported him missing and sometime later his body was found.

The police arrested a man and a woman, both from the ultra-Orthodox community, on suspicion of involvement in the murder because of a romantic relationship Edri was allegedly having with a woman from Jerusalem. But the case was not solved and the two suspects were released.

In an investigative report two years ago, Kan 11 television's Shani Haziza pointed out the possible link with Berland's sect; in the '80s and '90s, the suspects operated so-called modesty guards for the sect, Haziza reported.

She said that despite the clues leading the police to the Shuvu Banim Yeshiva, investigators followed a different lead in Shitrit's case, assuming that modesty guards would not commit murder. The police focused instead on Reynolds.

During Haziza’s work on her report, her cellphone went missing; the police recovered it and demanded access to its contents, claiming they could greatly help the investigation. Haziza refused and the case is now with the courts.

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