Police: Mother strangled her daughters before burning apartment

Authorities believe at least some of the four girls found dead during a blaze in Jerusalem were murdered before the fire was sparked.

Shlomo Pyotrovsky , | updated: 09:53

The couple
The couple
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The four young girls found dead during a fire in their Jerusalem apartment may have been murdered beforehand by their mother, local police say, in what appears to have been a murder-suicide.

Jerusalem district police commander Yoram Levy spoke with Army Radio Monday morning regarding the ongoing investigation into the incident, describing the scene of the grisly murders.

“No one can get used to seeing something like that. We often see difficult things, but this was something else,” said Levy. “Speaking as someone who reached the scene and who saw the figures, the bodies, it was a very difficult sight even for the most hardened professionals.”

Levy said that the first report to authorities of the incident came from neighbors in the building.

“The neighbors smelled smoke and tried to open the door, they went to their [the family’s] porch and saw the initial scene. At that point they called MDA, the fire department, and police, who broke into the apartment.”

Based on the initial investigation, Levy added, at least some of the girls killed on Sunday were murdered before the fire was lit – strangled by their mother before she set their home ablaze and hanged herself.

“The fire was in a small room with no oxygen,” said Levy, “a fire which burned for hours, creating intense heat and choking [those in the apartment]. The initial findings of the investigation show that some of the girls were already dead before the fire was lit. We are, of course, requesting that autopsies be performed, [but] no permission has been granted, so we have turned to the court, which is set to rule soon.”

“The court needs to decide whether to [permit] autopsies, and it is a difficult decision. We will continue with the investigation with experts from the fire department who can conduct a forensic analysis of scenes like this.”

Levy also responded to questions regarding whether there were any warning signs prior to the ghastly murders, and if the incident could have been prevented.

“Like all parents, many people are asking the question of how something like this could happen, and we don’t have an answer. We know that the mother was being treated by medical services, and there is evidence from the scene that she was taking medication.”

The mother and her four daughters were found dead Sunday evening after a fire was reported in their sixth-floor Derech Hevron apartment. The father was seriously injured by the fire.

The couple immigrated to Israel from France 13 years ago, and had four daughters, ages 11, 9, 4, and 11 months.