Piece by piece: Solving the Duma terror case

Indictments have been issued months after three members of a Palestinian family were murdered by an arsonist, with sources saying the main suspect implicated himself with information known only to investigators.

A shoeprint was but one piece of allegedly damning evidence against 21-year-old Amiram Ben-Uliel, who was charged on Sunday with murdering three members of a Palestinian family by setting their home on fire. The clue did not result in an immediate arrest. The investigation was just beginning.



Additional evidence, from clues found at the scene to details provided by Ben-Uliel that would be known only to someone involved in the crime, means Sunday's indictment was not based solely on the suspect's confession – meaning his attorneys will have a tough time arguing that he confessed under physical duress.


Amiram Ben-Uliel
Amiram Ben-Uliel

A supposed accomplice, a 17-year-old known as A., was arrested before Ben-Uliel, despite Shin Bet investigators already considering the latter a suspect. A major development occurred two weeks later, when A. began providing detailed confessions to multiple price tag attacks, including setting a church on fire and puncturing tires in East Jerusalem.


Once A. implicated himself in price tag activities, investigators moved on to Ben-Uliel. Following a few weeks of questioning and surveillance, police noticed that Ben-Uliel had officially changed his residence from the "hilltop" to Jerusalem, a move that raised suspicions. "I have known this guy for many years, and it was clear to me that there was no way he would leave the 'hilltop'," said one investigator. "He is a person who is very devout in his faith, and if he decided to leave the 'hilltop', then he must have gone through some kind of change. Apparently someone made him do it."


The Dawabsheh house in Duma after the fire (Photo: Zakaria Sadeh) (Photo: Zacharia Sadeh)
The Dawabsheh house in Duma after the fire (Photo: Zakaria Sadeh)


Ben-Uliel was arrested and thoroughly questioned, in one case being prevented from attending a court hearing so as not to interrupt questioning. "He was stubborn and it was obvious that we would only crack the case when we could get eye contact out of him," said an investigator.


The suspects' attorneys have argued that the Shin Bet's use of the "ticking time bomb" procedure resulted in harsh measures that led to false confessions.


Ben-Uliel ultimately confessed to investigators and purportedly further implicated himself by providing details that only someone involved in the murders should know. For example, Ben-Uliel reportedly said the fire was started by a Molotov cocktail created with a green-colored glass beer bottle, which matched forensic evidence of which the suspect had not been informed.


The suspect allegedly also volunteered additional confidential information, thus weakening the claims of a false confession. Ben-Uliel was then brought to the Dawabsheh house in Duma to reenact the night of the murder, which also resulted in Ben-Uliel revealing confidential knowledge.


"At first he didn't recognize the place, but when we went in (to the town) and got near the Dawabsheh family's house, he began to provide details about the place," said an investigator. "He described, for example, the Dawabsheh family's black Skoda, and told us he tried to get to the house from a particular direction but encountered a pile of garbage and had to backtrack."


Ben-Uliel then purportedly offered another incriminating detail – that he had stumbled and fallen while fleeing Duma on foot, which matched testimony by a neighbor of the Dawabshehs.


פרסום ראשון: 01.04.16, 10:41
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