TEL AVIV (Jul. 1)
All of Israel was in mourning today for eight-year-old Oron Yarden, whose partially decomposed body was Found in a shallow grave in the sand dunes near Netanya last night, three weeks and one day after he was kidnapped for ransom.
The police are holding a suspect who reportedly confessed the crime and directed them to the goad where the child was buried. According to the police, he died some time on June 10, two days after he was abducted from the Savyon quarter of Tel Aviv and several hours before his parents, Penina and Amos Yarden, paid the IL 2 million demanded by the kidnapper.
The tragic denouement of the case has shocked and infuriated Israelis and raised cries for capital punishment for the crime of kidnapping. Police have refused so identify the suspect by name. However, he is known to be a 33-year-old lieutenant in the army reserves, the father of three children, married but separated from his wife. He is reportedly an illustrator by profession who worked mainly on children’s books.
The suspect was detained Friday at his home in Netanya after ransom bills deposited in a Rehovot bank were traced to him. Police found IL 1.5 million of the ransom money concealed in and around a house near Neve Nelman which the suspect occupied with the woman he was living with and another man. His two companions were also arrested but the police said today that the woman, a song-write, apparently had no knowledge of the crime and may be released soon. The other man will also be released.
BAY DEAD WHEN RANSOM REQUESTED
Police said the initial autopsy indicated that Oron was dead at the time his killer was negotiating for ransom. They said the suspect claims the killing was accidental. According to his story, as relayed by a police spokesman, he accidentally suffocated the boy to prevent him from crying out while driving through Tel Aviv shortly after the kidnapping. Oron suffered from bronchial asthma. Police said the killer concealed the body in the trunk of the car when he picked up the ransom money on a deserted rood near Neve Nelman. He buried the boy only 36 hours later.
Whether the killing was accidental or intentional, it constitutes first degree murder. Thousands of Israelis telephoned newspapers and broadcasting stations last night and today demanding capital punishment. Leaders of the Lawyers Association have also recommended that kidnapping be added to the list of capital crimes. Under present law, the death sentence can be imposed only on Nazi war criminals convicted of murdering Jews in the Holocaust. An example was Adolf Eichmann, who was hanged in Israel in 1961. Military courts may also impose the death penalty in certain cases. Otherwise, the maximum punishment allowed for murder is life imprisonment.
Meanwhile, the police have been criticized for their handling of the Yarden case. The Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee today recommended the creation of a special State committee headed by a judge, to examine the way the police conducted the investigation.