In what is being described as one of the most gruesome and disturbing murders in Israeli history, police suspect that a missing four-year-old French girl has been killed by her mother and paternal grandfather - who are lovers.
The body of Rose Pizem has yet to be found, and investigators have been running around-the-clock searches over the past two weeks, mainly in the Tel Aviv area and along the banks of and inside the murky Yarkon River, where her grandfather says he threw her body. The police have employed divers, dogs and electronic equipment to assist in the searches.
Ronnie Ron, the child's grandfather, hides his face at a court hearing; right: Rose's mother Marie
Six years ago, Netanya resident Benjamin Pizem, now 25, moved to France and met Marie-Charlotte Renault, now 23. The two married and shortly afterwards had a child named Rose. At one point, the couple came to Israel for a visit, following which Benjamin returned to France with Rose. His wife Marie decided to stay in Israel after falling in love with Ronnie Ron, her husband's father.
In subsequent years, Benjamin, who divorced Marie, reportedly had difficulty caring for Rose. Following a lengthy legal process, Rose was returned to the custody of her mother and paternal grandfather - now stepfather. In the meantime, the couple had two additional children.
Shortly after Rose's return to Israel last December, the couple decided to move her into the home of her great-grandmother - Ronnie's mother - after they had difficulty raising her together with their two new children.
According to police, one day in May, Ronnie Ron, 45, appeared at his mother's house and took Rose. When asked later where she was, he said he had placed Rose in boarding school.
Last month, however, the great-grandmother contacted welfare authorities out of concern for Rose. The police were then contacted and last week arrested Marie and Ronnie, who during his interrogation confessed to killing Rose, stuffing her body in a suitcase and dumping it in the Yarkon River. Police have said that they suspect that the mother, Marie, was an accomplice to the murder.
"From the evidence we have collected there is a suspicion that Ronnie, the grandfather, and Marie, the mother, were involved in Rose's disappearance and murder," police inspector Ilan Ben-Shalom said on Tuesday. "The suspects' versions have been checked and we have also conducted searches in the Yarkon River, where Rose's body was allegedly dumped by her grandfather."
Ronnie Ron's lawyer did not refute police suspicions that her client had killed Rose, but claimed during a court session on Tuesday that the young girl was killed accidentally and that as a result the grandfather should be charged with manslaughter and not murder.