Family killed over wife's virtual affair

AN ISRAELI man murdered his wife and children and tried to kill himself because she was conducting a "virtual" romance on the Internet with a man she may never have met, a court heard yesterday.

Amnon Cohen, a 43-year-old Tel-Aviv taxi driver, confessed and re-enacted the crime for police on Sunday, the morning after he stabbed and strangled his wife, Suzie, 39, strangled their son Yair, four, and daughter Yael, two, in their sleep and set the flat on fire. The victims were buried yesterday and a magistrate remanded Mr Cohen in custody.

Police had been called around midnight after Mr Cohen phoned another cabby and sent a suicide note to two newspapers. When firemen burst into the blazing flat, they found the three bodies in flames. They said the children's bodies were burning like torches and it was difficult to tell whether there were two of them or one.

Mr Cohen was in the bathroom with a rope around his neck after taking 90 blood pressure pills. He wrote a suicide note attached to a computer printout of his wife's on-line conversations with her virtual lover and photographs of his children.

"My wife has been behaving strangely for months," he wrote. "It turns out she found a lover on the computer. I read what she wrote to him... Virtual infidelity is still infidelity. Explaining why he killed his children, he went on: "I did not want to leave my children in your cruel world. I grew up an orphan and I suffered indescribably. I know ... what it is like to grow up without parents or family."

In court, the defence lawyer, Moshe Meroz, suggested that the shock of his wife's betrayal had triggered memories of two traumatic experiences from Mr Cohen's own childhood. When he was six months old, his father accused his mother of infidelity. She responded by burning down their home and killing herself.