A two-part special on Australian television showed undercover footage which appeared to show a woman wanted in Australia on 74 charges of sex abuse, including rape, while teaching in a Jewish school was faking mental illness in court to avoid arrest.
“The Australian Story: The Justice Principle” was screened Monday and showed some of the footage obtained by private investigators using hidden cameras, which showed the woman, whose name is gagged in Israel by court order, going about her daily chores. The footage from a private firm, led to a police undercover operation which came to the conclusion that she was faking mental illness to avoid being extradited.
Private investigator Tsafrir Tsahi filmed the woman in the small ultra-Orthodox West Bank town of Emmanuel using hidden cameras. Knowing it would be difficult to blend in to the community, he and his team dressed up as construction workers.
“We decided that we will look like workers, builders, that are working there and they live their life there,” he said. “The people in the community of Emmanuel never talked to the builders.”
Tsahi said he used a camera hidden in a water bottle to film the woman in the local store buying food.
“A regular bottle, that you can fill with water and that you can drink from the bottle, but it has a camera inside,” he said. “Nobody would look at somebody with a bottle of water.”
The team recorded the woman for two weeks using zoom lenses and all manner of concealed cameras.
“She was filmed sitting on her balcony at her home, taking phone calls, waiting for the bus, shopping and buying groceries and toys for her grandchildren,” according to the television report.
Part one of the two-part series can be seen on YouTube.
She is expected to appear in court on Wednesday for her extradition hearing.
The woman is wanted in Australia for alleged sexual offenses against pupils at the Adass school when she was a teacher and then principal.
Australian authorities first filed a request for her extradition in 2014. She was arrested in Israel at the time but was later released to house arrest while awaiting extradition to Melbourne where she faces 74 charges of sexual abuse of girls at the school.
However, in June 2016 an Israeli court stopped the extradition process after a psychiatric assessment found that she was not fit to stand trial. Mental health professionals, including the Jerusalem district psychiatrist, previously confirmed that Leifer’s panic attacks prior to her scheduled court appearances were genuine and said the proceedings of a court hearing put her under extreme anxiety.
Over the next six months a psychiatric committee continued to carry out assessments, and repeatedly found she was not able to stand trial.
“During 2017 there were indications that the suspect was pretending to be suffering from a mental illness in order to avoid the extradition process, and as a result, the police again opened an investigation that led to her arrest this morning,” the statement said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.