Eliezer Berland in custody
Eliezer Berland in custody Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Following requests from the media to reveal the names of all those arrested in connection with a decades-old murder and another suspected murder, the judge in the case has allowed the publication of three names of suspects, all of whom are already in police detention.

The first is named as Baruch Sharvit, a member of the Shuvu Banim cult-like sect headed by convicted criminal Eliezer Berland. According to police, Sharvit was an active participant in the abduction and subsequent murder of Nissim Shitrit; while in custody, he was confronted with Berland who ordered him to reveal what he knew to police. Sharvit complied, and, according to a report in Kikar Hashabbat, he confessed his own role in the crime and also implicated others.

The second name released for publication is that of Tzvi Zucker, Berland’s son-in-law and formerly the head of the sect’s Modesty Patrol. Zucker has allegedly admitted to passing on Berland’s order to murder Shitrit; he also accidentally incriminated himself during interrogation. Zucker is no longer a member of Shuvu Banim and in fact is one of Berland’s most vehement opponents, despite his family connection.

The third name is that of Eliezer Berland himself, already in prison due to crimes of tax evasion and extortion. Multiple sources have attested to the fact that Berland ordered the murder of Shitrit and also that of Avi Edri, and possibly others.

Meanwhile, police have filed a prosecutor’s statement against another suspect in the murder of Shirit; this suspect’s name has yet to be released for publication, but it is known that he is the son of a former government minister. During the hearing on Monday, police stated that there existed evidence linking him and two others to the abduction and murder of Shitrit.

“The three suspects were in a vehicle with Nissim Shitrit and they took him to the tomb of Dan Ben Yaakov [near Beit Shemesh],” police stated in court. “There the suspects removed him from the vehicle, beat him, and killed him.”

Shitrit’s body has never been recovered, but the judge noted in his decision that there are “reasonable grounds for concluding that Nissim Shitrit is dead.”

A police statement later noted that, “There have been significant developments in the investigation … Despite the absence of the body, police investigators have been able to uncover the truth behind the disappearance and have arrested the suspects involved in the assumed abduction and murder of Nissim Shitrit. With regard to the case of Avi Edri, our investigations continue.”

Commenting on the case, Jerusalem District Commander Superintendent Doron Turgeman said: “We did not stint resources in the investigation of this crime and even after the passage of a great many years, investigators did not despair of arriving at the truth … I am confident that the great effort that investigators have invested around the clock will lead to the end of this affair and to the execution of justice with regard to all those involved – and will also bring a measure of comfort to the families.”

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