Murder-suicide Suspected After Woman, Four Daughters Killed in Jerusalem Apartment Fire

Police and firefighters break down the door of a fifth floor apartment, finding victims' bodies. The woman was found lying next to a noose. She had sought psychiatric help from city services a month ago for depression, and had phoned welfare authorities for a baby sitter.

Firefighters on scene as murder–suicide suspected after woman, four children killed in Jerusalem apartment fire. January 1, 2017.
Emil Salman

A fire at a home on Jerusalem's Derech Hebron killed a woman her four daughters aged two to 12 on Sunday, Magen David Adom paramedics said. The possibility that the fire is a murder–suicide is suspected.

"All possible scenarios are being investigated," the head of the Jerusalem firefighters said.

"This is a very hard scene in which a mother and her four daughters are dead. We are investing what happened, what is this woman's background and what led to such a tragic outcome. It might be that this is a fire, [but] we are also investing the possibility this is a suicide and murder," he said.

Firefighters recovered the bodies while putting out the blaze. The apartment where the fire took place was on the fifth floor, police and firefighters had to break down the door, and paramedics arrived and pronounced the victims deaths. 

Firefighter Arik Abuloff said he found the mother lying on the floor next to a noose, after breaking into the locked home from a neighbor's balcony. 

Paramedic Menachem Astrik, the first person on the scene, said: "I saw smoke from the first floor window and I went upstairs into a house filled with smoke, breaking in together with firefighters.

"I saw a woman in her 30s unconscious, who wasn't breathing and had no pulse. I gave her first aid but we pronounced her dead soon after. Firefighters brought to the balcony four wounded victims, unconscious, a girl of 12 and three younger girls. They sustained severe burns. We tried to revive them but had to pronounce their deaths at the scene."

The woman had recently sought help from the city's psychiatric services, complaining of depression. No suicidal tendencies were diagnosed nor any sign of her being a risk to those around her. The authorities are now investigating the diagnostic process she went through.

Welfare authorities said the woman had reached out to them three months ago, in a telephone call seeking a baby sitter, a service they could not provide. They urged her to come in for some help but she refused, and they did not initiate any visit.

Fires have claimed three other victims in the past two weeks. A man of 40 was killed in a fire in a trailer in the Galilee town of Amirim, a man of 29 and his toddler son were seriously wounded in a fire in Nazareth, and a three-month-old died in a hut that daughter fire in a Bedouin encampment in the Negev.