Fugitive serial rapist Benny Sela was nabbed at the entrance to the northern city of Nahariya on Friday evening, two weeks after escaping from police custody in Tel Aviv en route to a mistaken court hearing.
Sela in police custody (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
Large police forces poured on the coastal city after residents reported spotting the convicted rapist. Police said Sela, who was convicted of 14 counts of rape and sexual assault and sentenced to 35 years in jail, was riding a stolen car upon his arrest.
One of Sela's relatives tipped police about the rapist's whereabouts, reporting that Sela had visited him and told him he is heading north. The relative also gave police details about the car that Sela was driving.
Police said Sela, who was arrested near Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, resisted arrest and ran away from the checkpoint.
Police officers chased him and handcuffed him after he tried to con them by giving an Arab name.
But convinced they had arrested the rapist, officers insisted on taking him to the Nahariya police station to check his identity.
Sela told reporters at the Nahariya police station that he escaped because he had been repeatedly beaten by officers who were guarding him.
Police chief meets rapist
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert contacted Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter and Police Chief Moshe Karadi to congratulate them for Sela's arrest.
Upon Sela's arrest Karadi rushed to Nahariya from a Tel Aviv hotel where he had planned to spend the weekend with a handful of senior officers and was said to have met the serial rapist.
A commission set up by Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter to probe the humiliating blunder pointed to serious police shortcomings that contributed to Sela's escape.
Nahariya residents gather outside police station in Nahariya (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
On Friday afternoon police received reports from citizens who said they had spotted Sela driving a Honda Civic in Tiberias.
A police inspection of the car's plate number revealed that the car had been reported stolen on Friday morning.
Shortly before Sela's arrest at 19.50, a police helicopter and several cruisers were called to Nes Ziona in the center of the country after receiving a call from a resident claiming he had seen a man who looks similar to the rapist.
The arrest could reinstate public confidence in the Israel Police following a wave of criticism over Sela's easy escape from custody outside a courthouse.
Avi Cohen contributed to this report