Holy City's `serial killer' confesses

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The Independent Online
SHE LAY in the middle of the narrow street sixty yards downhill from. The Independent office, dressed in a brown skirt and a dark jacket. A small black handbag with a gold chain was lying on the ground beside her body. Some time after 10am yesterday somebody had stabbed her several times through the chest and a long stream of dark blood had run down the hill.

Her name was Meila Ka'arin. She was 47, a Palestinian, and at first she seemed to be the third victim within a year by a serial killer who knives Palestinians as they walk through Jewish west Jerusalem. But, in fact, she appears to have died at the hands of another Palestinian. Last night a 23-year- old Palestinian confessed that he had killed her, apparently thinking she was Jewish, as she walked down Elisha Street in the Musrara district on the dividing line between the Jewish and Palestinian parts of Jerusalem.

Ms Ka'arin was unlucky. If the confession of her killer is true he thought that anybody walking in Elisha Street was inevitably Jewish. It is true that Musrara, Jewish since 1948, is mainly inhabited by the original Sephardic Jewish immigrants and more recently arrived businessman. But in recent years it has often been used by Palestinians as the quickest way by foot from their part of the city to the newly-built municipality building where they pay water rates.

The first person to see Ms Ka'arin's body did not realise she was dead. Thinking she was sick he leaned over her and asked: "Are you all right ? Can I help you?" Then he saw blood welling out of her chest and called the police.

By one account she had parked a car, walked up the street to the municipality building and returned half-an-hour later. She may have been attacked close to the steel gate of 11 Elisha Street. There are two pools of blood in front of the door. She must then have staggered a few feet into the centre of the road before she died.

Neighbours and passers-by immediately gathered as police dusted the gate where Ms Ka'arin was stabbed for finger-prints. "Is it a terrorist attack?"asked Nurit Harvey, and added in a worried voice: "It could have been me." She had left her car to attend a trial in a nearby court and when she came back the police stopped her moving it because it was parked close to the murdered woman.

Barry Satlow, a lawyer from Colorado, was in Jerusalem to attend his nephew's bar mitzvah but his brother lived in 11 Elisha Street. Finally he persuaded the police to let him though.

The police suggested early on the radio that Ms Ka'arin might have been stabbed in an "honour killing", in other words she might have been stabbed because of some perceived moral transgression, usually sexual, by a relative. "The police always say that," said one neighbour sceptically. "They don't want to say that a Jew killed a Palestinian or it is the serial killer because it stirs up hatred."

People in Jerusalem believe that they can tell Palestinians and Israelis from their dress. Ms Ka'arin with her neat jacket, skirt and handbag must have looked to the young Palestinian like a typical Israeli. In Jerusalem this is enough to get somebody killed.

For two hours Ms Ka'arin's body, yellow plastic covering her face, lay in the street.Then two men strapped her to a stretcher and took her away. A water truck hosed away the blood and Elisha Street returned to normal.