Ronny Ron, the man accused of murdering his four-year-old granddaughter, Rose Pizem, changed his testimony to a claim of innocence on Tuesday, prior to his court hearing.
"I did not murder her. The last time I saw her she was alive, at my mother's house. Go and ask her; she's manipulative," he told reporters. "The last time I saw (Rose) she was in my mother's care."
He added that he had been coerced into a confession. Ron had confessed to the girl's murder several weeks ago, after being arrested in relation to her disappearance.
Asked why he confessed to killing Rose, Ron said "because I thought it would help my mother and the little girls. (Police) threatened that my girls would grow up to be prostitutes, become involved in drugs and be handed over to foster homes.
The attorney for Rose's great-grandmother, Vivien Yaakov, said of Ron's comments "Police have heard several testimonies that disprove Ron's falsified version of the events. Today it is clear that it is thanks to Vivian that an investigation was launched. She still has hopes that Rose will be found."
During the Ramla District Court hearing on the extension of the remand of Ron and his lover, Rose's mother Marie Renault, additional details surfaced regarding Ron's apparent efforts to cover up Rose's disappearance.
It was revealed that when asked by his friend Uzi where Rose was, Ron answered "she is at the French people's camp" and added that he and Marie drove her there every morning.
According to Uzi, the conversation took place in July, some two months after Rose had disappeared.
Marie Renault brought to court (Photo: Yariv Katz)
Renault burst into tears after French and British reporters asked her if she missed her daughters. Asked whether she knew anything of Rose's apparent murder, the mother shook her head and asked to leave the courtroom.
However, when the cameramen were ordered to exit the courtroom, Renault appeared more relaxed and even smiled while talking to her attorneys.
During the hearing it was further revealed that letters written by Renault to Ron, which were found in her apartment, read "I am shocked by what happened to Rose. I feel like a bad mother."
The court heard testimony from the couple's babysitter, who said that one evening – apparently May 12, the day Rose disappeared - Renault and Ron returned home late and acted strangely.
According to the babysitter, when she inquired as to Rose's whereabouts, Ron told her she was at his mother's house. The babysitter's testimony cast further doubt on Renault's assertion that she had no prior knowledge of her daughter's disappearance.
The mother had previously testified that Ron had told her that Rose was at a French school.
The court extended Renault's remand by 10 days, and Judge Liora Frenkel said that there was reasonable suspicion that she was guilty of the crimes for which she was accused.
Ron's remand was also extended by 10 days.
Police officials stressed that Ron's claim of innocence would not change the course of the investigation and that the search for Rose in Tel Aviv's Yarkon River would continue. Ron had previously told police that he tossed a suitcase containing Rose's body into the river.
"Ron is still under arrest and his new version is a result of stress," one official said.
According to another police source, Ron "is only now beginning to understand what he got himself into and is trying to save himself, but it's too late. We have his confession and reenactment of the murder on tape.
"Ron said Rose died after he hit her in the car, but his testimony will have to be reviewed before an indictment is filed, although the confession and reenactment should suffice," the official said.