20 years on, man convicted in murder of Jerusalem teenager

Advanced DNA matching of a saliva sample led to 2014 arrest of Daniel Nachmani, 42, who is found guilty of the 1998 sexual assault and killing of Noa Eyal

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Daniel Nachmani, the suspect in the murder of teenager Noa Eyal in 1998, arrives at the Jerusalem District Court on January 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Daniel Nachmani, the suspect in the murder of teenager Noa Eyal in 1998, arrives at the Jerusalem District Court on January 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday convicted a man over the sexual assault and murder of Noa Eyal, a teenage girl from Jerusalem, over 20 years ago.

Daniel Nachmani, 42, a married father of two from Jerusalem who works as car electrician, was identified at the suspect using an advanced DNA method that matched evidence from the crime scene to a saliva sample gathered from a street he spat on four years ago.

The court acquitted Nachmani of an additional charge of rape due to lack of evidence.

In a statement, Eyal’s family hailed the court ruling.

“The evil person, who took Noa’s life, has no right to walk about freely like everyone else,” the statement said. “The Jerusalem court today brought this full circle. Order, in a sense, has been restored, as it should be in a properly functioning society. We, Noa’s family, will have neither relief nor comfort.”

Defense lawyers for Nahmani said they would study the conviction and said their client continues to maintain his innocence.

Eyal, 17 at the time, disappeared late at night on February 22, 1998, as she made her way homeward after seeing a movie with a friend. She was last seen waiting at a bus stop in Davidka Square in downtown Jerusalem. Her body was found the following evening in a forest near the capital’s northwestern neighborhood of Ramot, where she lived.

In the days that followed, police gathered eyewitness accounts that said Eyal had gotten into a white Ford Escort car. Although there was a media gag order on all details of the case, a local Jerusalem newspaper at the time published some of developments including a detailed description of the car and identifying stickers in the back window.

Police later said that report set back the investigation.

For 16 years the murder remained unsolved even though investigators had managed to obtain DNA samples of the suspect from the crime scene. Samples were taken from a long list of possible sex offenders across the country, but there were no matches linking any of them to Eyal.

A breakthrough came when police obtained permission to use an advanced DNA analysis method which enables linking between family members within the pool of samples held by cops.

The technology narrowed down the search to Nachmani as a prime suspect. Police began following him and manged to secure a DNA sample after he spat in the street. The sample matched evidence taken at the murder scene and he was arrested in 2014.

Nachmani also lived in the Ramot neighborhood at the time.

Cops also reviewed the signal from Nachmani’s cellphone — which until recently was the same number he had in 1998 — which placed him in Davidka Square on the night Eyal disappeared. An indictment on rape and murder was filed in 2015.

View of the Davidka Square in the center of Jerusalem. April 22, 2012. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Channel 10 television reported that among those who provided evidence against Nachmani was his wife, who told the court that they had sex several times in the forest where Eyal was found even though he claimed he had never been there. He also claimed to not have been in Davidka Square on the night of the crime, contrary to the cellphone evidence.

According to the report, Nachmani has a history of other crimes.

Around five years before the murder, when he was 17, he was indicted for a sexual assault against an 11-year-old tourist. In another incident, he was suspected of sexual assault against a 14-year-old girl.

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