Daily Israel Report

Police 'Bungled' Investigation of Rabbi’s Murder

State Comptroller’s report highly critical of police in case of terrorist attack written off as suicide.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 2/12/2014, 3:30 PM

Rabbi Moshe Talbi
Rabbi Moshe Talbi
Courtesy of the family

The State Comptroller has issued a strong condemnation of police behavior in the investigation of the death of Rabbi Moshe Talbi.

Rabbi Talbi, 54, a father of seven, was found dead of a gunshot wound in his car nearly three years ago, outside the Israeli community of Revava in Samaria. Despite evidence indicating that he had been murdered – including the presence of six bullet shells in his car – police insisted that the rabbi had committed suicide.

Police only agreed to reopen the case after the family hired a private pathologist, and took her findings to Knesset, where they gathered support among MKs for further investigation. A second investigation indicated that Rabbi Talbi may have been murdered by terrorists.

Due to their erroneous assumption, police officers failed to conduct basic tests that could have helped find the killers, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira stated.

“Various examinations that are required in any investigation of a death of this kind were not carried out,” he wrote. “They did not check for fingerprints or take DNA samples from the Rabbi’s car, his clothing was not examined, a picture of the scene was not taken immediately, but rather, only much later, no pathologist was brought to the scene, and there was no analysis of the blood pattern at the scene.

“The bullet that was left at the scene was not located, and security cameras were not checked,” he noted.

“The fact that police reached the conclusion that it was a suicide before completing the investigation meant they did not conduct critical tests which could have shed light on the circumstances of the death,” he charged.

Attorney Shmuel Lankry, Rabbi Talbi’s brother-in-law, spoke to Arutz Sheva about the case. He noted that police had insisted Rabbi Talbi’s death was a suicide despite the complete lack of evidence that the rabbi had been depressed, and despite tell-tale signs of a violent struggle in the car.

In addition, he said, a nearby security camera – which police failed to check – showed two suspicious figures in the area shortly before the rabbi’s death.

Lankry said police had hidden evidence that contradicted the suicide theory, including the presence of DNA that did not belong to Rabbi Talbi on the trigger of the gun that killed him.

He noted that the State Comptroller had also taken police to task for the way in which officers broke the news of Rabbi Talbi’s death to his son Netanel. Police first summuned Netanel Talbi for investigation, and only after he arrived told him his father was dead.

“The son called his father to tell him he had been summoned for investigation and didn’t know why, but there was no father to answer him,” Lankry said.

The comptroller condemned officers’ behavior in the incident as “unreasonable” and “insensitive.” He rejected to argument made by police that their goal had been to investigate quickly, saying, “Even if Netanel’s help was needed in the investigation, it could have been sought in a more appropriate, more sensitive manner.”

The Talbi family is not seeking revenge, Lankry noted. The family simply wishes to avoid any similar scenarios in the future, he said.

He noted that the police behavior exhibited after Rabbi Talbi’s death was not a one-off event. Following the deaths of Asher Palmer and his infant son Yonatan, police wrote off the incident as a car crash caused by careless driving. Only the family’s protests, and the fact that Asher’s gun had been stolen from the scene, led police to investigate further and to conclude that the two had been murdered by terrorists, Lankry recalled.

“This is a matter of public interest,” he said.