J'lem Court Orders Reporter to Reveal Police Sources

The story of the murder-suicide of actress Anat Elimelech and her former lover, David Afuta, refuses to fade away even eleven years after their deaths. In a Jerusalem family court hearing yesterday, the Elimelech family filed suit against Afuta's heirs, his brother and the police. The filed petition also demands that four reporters who covered the story answer questions regarding their police sources. The family seeks to determine police responsibility for media reports, shortly after the event, that Elimelech had murdered Afuta. The court ordered former Haaretz reporter Sammy Sokol to disclose his police source, giving him 21 days to file an opposition to the order.

On Dec 2, 1997, Elimelech and Afuta were found dead in Afuta's Jerusalem apartment. The first on the scene were Afuta's brothers, Yosef and Shmuel. Allegedly, seeing the gun near Afuta's hand, the pair moved it to Elimelech's hand to create the appearance that she had murdered Afuta and committed suicide. Police later claimed that forensic tests revealed that Afuta had fired the gun and not Elimelech. However, early reports claimed Elimelech may have been the murderer.

In 2005, the Elimelech family filed a NIS 9.25 million lawsuit for damages to them and Elimelech's estate. The suit alleges NIS 6 million in lost earnings and NIS 3 million in damage to Elimelech's reputation and to the family's good name, emotional pain and suffering and police negligence for allowing the brothers into the crime scene and for causing or not preventing the misleading news items.

Jerusalem detectives and police officials deny having spoken with reporters and rejected any responsibility for the reports. In order to determine the veracity of those claims, four reporters who covered the story were summoned yesterday. Three claimed they did not remember who their police sources were. Washington Post correspondent Sammy Sokol, who covered the affair for Haaretz, said he does remember his source but invoked journalistic privilege. When lawyers for the family read off the list of police officers who denied talking to reporters, Sokol stated explicitly that he had received information from one of them, but refused to say which one.

The Afuta family said that to this day it is unclear what happened. The brothers deny moving the gun and also claim that Afuta's estate does not contain assets that could pay the damages sought in the lawsuit.

Sammy Sokol said yesterday, "I expect the court to protect journalistic privilege. This is not an instance where revealing a source could save a life or prevent a future crime."