The state witness in the 2009 shooting at Tel Aviv's Barnoar LGBT youth center, who escaped from his safe house Thursday morning, met with a Channel 2 reporter and told him, "I am a dead man walking."
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In an interview with the reporter, the state witness said, "I am in fact living, but I am dead from within. There is pressure from the police on the one hand, who are waiting for an outcome, and there is pressure from the suspects, which makes you constantly fear for your life."
The interview with Channel 2 was conducted amid a large-scale police manhunt for the state witness, who had gone missing in the morning hours of Thursday. The witness left the secret apartment he was staying in of his own volition without coordinating his moves with the police. Since his escape, there has been no contact with him, and the police are using all means at their disposal to locate him. Dozens of policemen are searching for him. The Tel Aviv district police force is adding more manpower to join the search, and is receiving aid from other districts in an attempt to find the witness.
The witness is supposed to be under round-the-clock protection by the police force’s central unit, backed by policemen from other special units. Due to the danger to his life which arose when his identity was disclosed in the online social media last week, it was decided to place him under the general witness protection program. After Channel 10 disclosed the location of his safehouse, the suspect was moved to another secret location.
The witness' identity and photograph surfaced after he disappeared Thursday in an internal police email that was also sent to volunteers. This is contrary to standard procedures according to which the identities of state witnesses remain confidential, even within the police force. An announcement released Thursday stated that the state witness' life was in danger.
The witness had been staying in a police-approved apartment. Both the apartment and building was guarded by several detectives, in order to protect him from harm and to enable him to testify in court. At 2 A.M. Thursday he told the guards that he was going to sleep and closed the door to his room. Later that morning, a detective discovered that he was missing. Police are investigating the possibility that the witness escaped through the window, but it is still unclear how he made it down from the window to the street.
After learning of the state witness' disappearance, detectives from the police’s central unit began searching for him. After they did not find him for several hours, they sought help from other units.
Police are already furious at the witness's behavior: He had been asked to keep a low profile, but instead arranged meetings in the safe house, held telephone conversations, and used Facebook. Police now fear that he will be used by external figures interested in getting his to reverse his testimony.
Police say that the witness is not under detention but is contractually obliged to only act with their approval and report his whereabouts. He is also supposed to be under 24-hour protection.
Despite its anger, the police do not want to break off contact with the witness. They insist that the case has not been put at risk since enough evidence and testimonies have already been gathered.
The witness, who identifies as gay, approached the police voluntarily and gave details pertaining to the murder. He disclosed that he gave the suspects information about the bar without knowing that they were intending to kill anyone. After reaching an agreement with him, the police used the state witness as an undercover agent, during which he managed to record the suspects apparently confessing to the murder.