Cult leader hangs himself in jail; Family suspects foul play

A man suspected of being a cult leader and encouraging a teacher to starve and beat her young son committed suicide in his prison cell at the Hadarim Prison in the Sharon area on Friday night.

Shai Abramof, 40, was found by wardens after hanging himself with a lace taken from a pair of pants. Paramedics tried to resuscitate him without success.

Abramof’s two cellmates were asleep at the time of the suicide. He had undergone an evaluation by social services and found not to be suicidal, the Prisons Service said.

The name of the cult involved has been reported in Israeli media variously as: Ithaca, Itka or Ithaka. Abramov’s first name has been spelled as either Shai or Shay.

He was arrested in Haifa on Wednesday along with his wife on suspicion of heading the Itka cult, and ordering his followers to physically abuse their children.

Three weeks ago, a 42-year-old schoolteacher from Netanya, allegedly a member of the cult, was arrested for starving and badly beating her 10-year-old son.

Abramof’s attorney, Avishag Cohen, said her client had undergone a humiliating experience during his arrest, when officers had “stepped on his head in front of his wife and children.”

Cohen added that Abramof had been denied his legal rights such as consulting with an attorney following the arrest.

– Source / Full Story: Cult leader hangs himself in jail, Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post, May 30, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Abramov was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly attacking several children, including his own four children, as part of a cult ritual based on the belief that the more suffering one caused now, the more joy and blessing one would receive in the future.

He confessed tot the allegations against him, yet he later retracted his confession and said that police had beaten him.

Police suspect that Abramiv emotionally controlled a teacher from Netanyha, while using physical violence in order to control her and her two children.

Police also said that Abramov was suspected of starving and humiliating several children. Abramov’s wife, with whom he had four children, told police that he used to beat and starve their children too.

– Source / Full Story: Suspected violent cult leader commits suicide in prison cell, Yaniv Kubovich, Haaretz, May 29, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog


Suspected cult leader Shai Abramof’s family has not ruled out the possibility of foul play in his death, reported Army Radio on Sunday.

His lawyer said their were no previous signs that he was suicidal after having met with him on Friday morning.

– Source / Full Story: Cult leader hangs himself in jail, Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post, May 30, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog
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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday May 30, 2010.
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