LONDON (Sep. 19)
The diplomatic community was shocked by the booby-trapped letter murder today of Ami Shechori, the Agricultural Attache of the Israeli Embassy here. Shechori, 44, was fatally wounded when he opened a letter mailed from Amsterdam which contained explosives. He died on the way to St. George’s Hospital at Hyde Park Corner. The explosion also seriously injured Kaddar Theodor, Mr. Shechori’s successor. The dead diplomat, who had completed his four-year tour in the Embassy, was due to return to Israel. Three other booby-trapped letters were subsequently detected in the Embassy mail and were rendered harmless.
Scotland Yard cordoned off the Embassy area this morning and is conducting a nationwide investigation to trace the killers and their associates. A senior police official expressed surprise at the apparent lack of security at the Embassy. “We are surprised that the Israelis were not on their guard against such an eventuality,” he told newsmen.
Shechori, who was married and the father of two children, was nearing the end of his tour of duty at the Embassy here which began in 1968. His family had already returned to their home at Chofit, near Nathanya and he was to follow after winding up his duties.
Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home cabled condolences to Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban. “We are disgusted at the underhanded act of terrorism which has resulted in the death of Mr. Shechori at your Embassy. I have sent a personal message to his widow and Ambassador (Michael) Comay but I wanted to send you also my sympathy and to say how distressed I am by this outrage,” Sir Alec said.
Foreign Minister Mohammed Hassan el-Zayyat of Egypt who is visiting London, said he was “sorry to hear this news.” He said he sympathized with the family of the Israeli diplomat for the “human sorrow” which he said was “the same sorrow inflicted upon the victims of the Lebanon raid last week.”
APPARENT LAPSE IN SECURITY MEASURES
According to police and Embassy spokesmen, Shechori and other senior officials were opening mail that had piled up in the Embassy mail room over the Yom Kippur holiday when the letter described as ordinary-looking exploded. Shechori suffered severe stomach, face and hand injuries. The room, later sealed off by Scotland Yard, was reported to have received only minor damage.
There was speculation here and in Jerusalem over the apparent lapse in security measures at the Embassy especially in light of the terrorist alerts in the aftermath of the murder of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich Sept. 5 and the wounding of an Israeli Embassy official by an Arab terrorist in Brussels Sept. 10.
(Reliable sources in Jerusalem said today that all Israeli Embassies had been given instructions “from time to time”–most recently after Munich–to turn over to security officials any suspicious letter or package addressed to Embassy personnel. The source said that one of the letters received at the London Embassy was addressed to Shechori, two others to Matthias Dayan, the Consul General, and one to Edgar Rupin, Minister of the Embassy. The source said another letter was mailed or delivered to Embassy Press Secretary Oded Eban containing a leaflet of the Black September organization, the terrorist group responsible for the Munich outrage.)
Home Secretary Robert Carr asked today to be kept personally informed of the progress of the investigation of today’s outrage. The British Zionist Federation and the Board of Deputies of British Jews cabled Sir Alec demanding action by the government against terrorism.
Shechori, born in Tel Aviv, was a grandson of Dr. David Mordechai Schwartz, a Lithuanian Zionist leader during the inter-war years. A professional agronomist, he studied at the Pardess Hana agricultural school and later earned a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley in the field of hydrology and land conservation. He was in charge of research at the Ruppin Agricultural School near Hadera from 1955-68 and in the latter year was appointed Agricultural Counselor to the Embassy in London.