Daily Israel Report

Police: Evidence of Negligence in Pesticide Deaths

Police recommend putting exterminator on trial for manslaughter over the deaths of two young girls.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 2/16/2014, 4:52 PM

Avigayil and Yael Gross, z"l
Avigayil and Yael Gross, z"l
Courtesy of the Gross family

Police in Jerusalem say they have enough evidence to put a local exterminator on trial for manslaughter in the deaths of two young girls.

Sisters Avigayil and Yael Gross were killed in January by a poison the exterminator used in their family’s home. The poison – phosphine – made their two older brothers critically ill as well; for several days the brothers were comatose and on life support, with doctors unsure if their hearts would resume beating.

Police have concluded their investigation and will pass on the evidence they have gathered to state prosecutors, who will decide what charges to bring in the case.  

The exterminator involved in the case has been identified as Yossi Barkan of the town of Nataf. He was identified, and arrested, after allegedly continuing to work as an exterminator following the Gross sisters’ deaths, despite a court order prohibiting him from working during the investigation of the tragedy.

Barkan says the only work he did was to put a non-poisonous mouse trap into place. His attorney has argued that he is “professional and responsible,” and had been working as an exterminator for many years without incident prior to the tragic deaths of the young girls.

The phosphine Barkan used in the Gross family’s apartment was put in a sealed room, but somehow spread through the family home over several days. Rescue personnel who arrived at the scene after the parents found their children gravely ill were shocked to discover that toxicity at the scene was at the highest level on the spectrum.

Brothers Michael and Yitzchak Gross, ages 7 and 5, have regained consciousness in the weeks since the poisoning. They were reunited earlier this month, on what would have been their sister Avigayil’s fifth birthday.