Death of British War Hero Recalls Unsolved Jerusalem Murder

A British World War II hero passed away this month and was buried with full honors - his past as the apparent murderer of a teenaged Lechi organization member in 1947 all but forgotten.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 14:28

Alexander Rubovitch, for whom a street is named in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiyot, was a dedicated member and poster-hanger for the Lechi organization, in the larger framework of being a lover of the Land, Torah and Nation of Israel. His father ran a pharmacy in the Meah She'arim neighborhood of Jerusalem.

On May 6, 1947, Shuki Dagan recounts in the weekly Shofar newspaper, the 16-year-old youth was sitting in the secret Lechi office in Zikhron Moshe, preparing glue for use in hanging handbills - the main medium by which Lechi publicized its notices. Informed that the regular runner was unavailable to transport the glue to a group of volunteers in Rehaviah, he decided to volunteer himself - a fateful decision.

When he reached Rehaviah Park, two or three men jumped out of a parked car and, after a struggle, pulled him into the car. A few hours later, he was dead.

As far as his family was concerned, however, Alexander had simply disappeared from the face of the earth. After intensive pressure, British officials finally admitted that he was dead - but denied having had anything to do with it.

Suspicion soon fell upon Maj. Roy Farran, largely because of a British Army hat found at the site of the abduction struggle with the word Farran written inside. Only 50 years later did it become known that the British themselves had more concrete evidence linking Farran with the murder - namely, his own confession.

Historian Giora Goodman revealed a secret document written by Farran's commander, Bernard Ferguson, which relates that Farran said that he and some men had arrested a "youth in possession of illegal posters." Farran said that they drove him towards Jericho and went a bit far "in their attempts to get him to talk." They abandoned the body adjacent to the Jerusalem-Jericho highway. Despite the torture, Rubovitch did not reveal a thing about his colleagues to his captors.

Ultimately, Farran was tried in a British court in Palestine for his part in the murder - but his hand-written notebook in which he allegedly confessed to the murder was destroyed at the behest of the specially flown-in judges. The trial lasted one day, Farran was cleared on account of "lack of evidence," and he was immediately flown back to Britain.

A year later, a parcel bomb addressed to R. Farran in London killed Roy's brother Rex, who opened the parcel. The bomb is assumed to have been sent by former Lechi members. As a result, Roy Farran felt forced to flee to Rhodesia, and later moved to Calgary, Canada.

Today, near the corner of Ussishkin and Keren Kayemet Streets in Rehavia, Jerusalem, a plaque makes note of Alexander's abduction at that site, as well as his subsequent torture and murder.

Farran, on the other hand, lived many more years, and was considered a legendary figure by many. He wrote a well-selling book on his military exploits, helped found the United Kingdom's famed Special Air Service, became an influential publisher and politician, and later held other public positions. He died after a long bout with cancer, and was buried in Calgary this month with a host of military honors.

Alexander Rubovitch's nephews Tzvi and Moshe Rubovitch attempted to make contact with Farran over the years, hoping to persuade him to reveal the exact whereabouts of the body. Farran refused any contact with them. With no expectation of finding any new information about the murder, they say that what remains is their admiration for the heroism, dedication, and loyalty their uncle displayed in his short life.