Jerusalem Murder Suspect Who Hid Partner's Body Was Police Informant

The body of Sarit Benit-Zikri was discovered in her Jerusalem apartment early last week, and her live-in partner was arrested as the prime suspect.

The man suspected of murdering his partner in Jerusalem last week and hiding her body on the balcony of the apartment they shared was employed as an undercover police agent, police acknowledged yesterday.

The body of Sarit Benit-Zikri was discovered in her Jerusalem apartment early last week, and her live-in partner was arrested as the prime suspect. However, a gag order was placed on his identity, and it was removed only yesterday.

Itzik Edri

The suspect, Itzik Edri, 36, has been serving as a police informant for the past several months. The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court remanded him for another five days yesterday.

The police investigation began last Sunday, when Benit-Zikri's family reported her missing. Police then began looking for Edri. Last Tuesday, they picked him up in Beit Shemesh, where he was driving Benit-Zikri's car. He was held for questioning and led police to the balcony of Benit-Zikri's house, where he had hidden her body behind various other objects.

Benit-Zikri, a divorcee, lived there with four children. When her body was finally discovered, her children had already been living in the house for four days without knowing that their mother's body was on the balcony.

In addition to hiding the body, Edri also tried to conceal the killing, police said, by sending the children text messages from their mother's cell phone that implied the two of them were on vacation up north.

Edri, a convicted criminal who has done jail time for drug offenses and violence, had been employed by the police as an undercover agent in recent months to obtain information about the alleged extortion of a Jerusalem contractor.

Police said yesterday that his efforts, in fact, produced evidence against three suspects in that case.

Last Sunday, however, a few hours before Benit-Zikri's relatives reported her missing, Edri cut off contact with his police handlers.

Yesterday, Edri refused to attend his remand hearing to protest his detention conditions, and his attorney, Haim Rubinstein of the Public Defender's Office, said his client had launched a hunger strike.

Rubinstein also stressed that even if his client killed Benit-Zikri, it was not necessarily murder. He told reporters it could well prove to be a lesser offense, like manslaughter.

This is the second time this month that a police informant has been suspected of committing a serious crime. Erez Dual, a 22-year-old criminal from Netanya whom police were using as an undercover agent in a drug trafficking investigation, was arrested on January 5 on suspicion of raping a 12-year-old girl.

His contract with the police required him to refrain from committing new crimes.

In that case, the girl said "an adult" had approached her in a public park one evening and begun to chat with her. At a certain stage, the man began touching her and then proceeded to rape her, despite her pleas that he stop.

The Netanya police were stunned when they discovered that the "adult" in question was apparently Dual. In that case, too, police said the suspect had been an effective undercover agent.