Israel Launches Nationwide Hunt for Murderer Who Escaped from Jail

A countrywide search was on Sunday for Herzl Avitan, described as a most dangerous and armed criminal, who used hostages on Saturday to escape from the Beersheba prison, where he was serving two life sentences for separate murders.

Avitan reportedly called the army radio station twice Sunday morning, saying he was ready to give himself up to police if prison conditions were improved for himself and two fellow prisoners.

Israeli army radio reporter Yehezkel Aviram said he received two phone calls Sunday morning from Avitan, whose voice he recognized from prior interviews with the convicted murderer.

Avitan also demanded that he be allowed to visit his 6-year-old son, who was reportedly at Neveh Tirza, the women’s prison, where he was born to Orit Arbiv, who is Avitan’s girl friend.

Arbiv was originally imprisoned in 1982 on suspicion of assisting Avitan in an armed robbery where a guard was killed and of being his accomplice in the murder of the warden of the Ramla prison. She was later acquitted of the murder charge.

Arbiv was sentenced in January 1986 to three years for drug trafficking and possession of illegal weapons. She is currently serving time for trying to slip a revolver to Avitan during a later prison visit.

During the massive manhunt for Avitan, a special watch has been placed at Neveh Tirza, and guards have also been placed around the homes of judges, lawyers, police officers and others implicated in his various trials and investigations.

ESCAPED AFTER EXERCISE

Avitan escaped from prison Saturday afternoon when he was taken from his cell for his customary exercise. At the time, he complained of feeling unwell and was returned to his cell by a prison officer. A paramedic was summoned.

When Avitan arrived at the cell with his warder, Avitan leapt at the three men, brandishing a pistol allegedly slipped to him earlier by a prison attendant.

Avitan tied up the officer and warder with rags taken from his cell. He reportedly ordered the medic to bring bandages and iodine, with which Avitan was made to appear injured. The iodine was splashed on him to look like blood.

Avitan then ordered the warder to announce on his walkie-talkie that the prisoner should be rushed to the hospital in a van, which was to be summoned.

Once outside the immediate area of the prison, Avitan reportedly ordered the others out of the van and drove away at top speed.

Avitan has been serving two life sentences for the murder of Roni Nitzan, the warden of the Ramla prison, as well as for the murder of a guard during an armed robbery at the Keren Or jewelry factory in Ramat Gan.

Avitan has also been awaiting a verdict for having brutally murdered a fellow prisoner, Haim Shoshan, by stabbing him hundreds of times with knives held in both hands.

Avitan had previously escaped to France, but was extradited back to Israel to stand retrial.

NEXT STORY