Hired Assassin Took out Burial Society Chief, Police Say

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Benny Hesse, longtime head of the Ashkenazi Chevra Kadisha in Haifa, was murdered in 2011 in what is believed to be territorial dispute between burial societies. Pictured above: Haifa CemeteryThe unexpected discovery of a weapon wedged between two stones in a Beit Shemesh mikveh (ritual bath) has led police in Northern Israel to arrest a suspect on charges of murdering the head of a burial society in Haifa in 2011, the Jerusalem Post has reported.

Benny Hesse was walking home alone with his wife last January when an armed individual shot him dead. Hesse was 68, and had been directing operations at the Ashkenazi Chevra Kadisha (burial society) in Haifa for over twenty years.

Initially, the authorities had no evidence or knowledge why anyone may have tried to assassinate the seemingly innocent man. But the discovery in November of a firearm in Beit Shemesh—accidentally found by a worker at the Jewish facility—was sent to a crime lab and studied for any possible links. As it turned out, the weapon proved a perfect match to one reportedly stolen in Haifa in 2001. The police—members of the elite police central unit squad, a part of the Coastal police district, according to the Post—eventually tied the weapon to  the suspect, Yitzchak Hazan, 49, who was in custody as of last week.

Hazan’s divorcée, along with two men from the Haifa area, were initially arrested for complicity in the murder—Hazan’s ex for having possibly assisted him in the killing and the men for possibly having ordered the hit. All three were released without charge, however.

“This investigation will continue as a top priority until we get to everyone who was involved,” Cmdr. Hagai Dotan, head of the Coastal police district, stated, according to the Post.

It is believed that Hazan was given 50,000 shekels to take out Hesse. The detained suspect says the money (which he presumably received around the time the hit took place) was given to help him cover renovation expenses, but detectives believe he was paid to kill the Chevra Kadisha chief, who was involved in what is suspected to have been a financial and territorial dispute between competing burial societies. Israel radio said the two men suspected of having orchestrated the assassination—but later released—were connected the Kurdish Chevra Kadisha, also located in Northern Israel.

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