Haaretz Steven Rambam Roy Farran Alexander RubowitzJerusalem Post Steven Rambam Roy Farran Alexander Rubowitz

British War Hero To Be Investigated Again for Murder of Jewish 'Terrorist'

A private detective has been hired to investigate an alleged murder of a Jewish underground fighter in 1947 by a British major.

Daliy Telegraph

March 28, 2009

He was a founder member of the SAS, was one of the most decorated officers of the Second World War, and has been hailed as a "legend among fighting men".

The heroism on the battlefield of Major Roy Farran, who died in 2006, earned him a Distinguished Service Order, three Military Crosses, the Croix de Guerre and the American Legion of Merit.
Among other feats, he led a highly successful raid against a German army headquarters in occupied Italy in which senior Reich generals were assassinated and their control over a vital front line thrown into chaos. In a single foray behind the lines in northern France, he led an SAS Jeep squadron which claimed 500 German soldiers killed or wounded, for a loss of just 12 British dead, wounded or taken captive.

But Major Farran's record of service after the war, when he was seconded to the British Section of the Palestine Police, cast a shadow over the rest of his life. He was implicated in the murder of Alexander Rubowitz, a 16-year-old member of the Jewish underground fighting British rule, who was kidnapped in Jerusalem in May 1947 - and was cleared at the time of any involvement in the Jewish teenager's death.

Now, however, his reputation is posthumously at risk again from a fresh investigation into the ugly incident, and friends fear that it may be tarnished for ever by the claim that Major Farran was the killer.

Steve Rambam, a private investigator from New York, has been hired by an unnamed Israeli living in America to reopen the case. He hopes to find Rubowitz's body, so that he can be given a proper burial, and discover more about who was responsible for the boy's murder.

He will soon visit Britain, where he hopes that five surviving members of the Palestine Police whom he has identified as members of the covert units might be willing to "clear their consciences" and reveal the burial place of their alleged victim. "There are people in the UK who have personal knowledge of the operations of these so-called 'snatch squads' because they were participants," Mr Rambam told The Sunday Telegraph.

"They would have been privy to who the local co-conspirators were, and all sorts of other good intelligence information that could lead us to where the body was concealed."

Suspicions of Major Farran's involvement were first raised after his grey trilby hat, with his name written inside, was found near the Jerusalem street corner where witnesses said that Rubowitz was bundled into a car by a man carrying a pistol.

Major Farran commanded one of the police squads, while Rubowitz distributed fliers and posters for Lehi - the Jewish organisation nicknamed "The Stern Gang", which killed and wounded dozens of British officers as part of the campaign to drive Britain from Palestine.

Documents released recently by the Public Records Office appear to implicate Major Farran. A written statement from a more senior officer claims that Major Farran had confessed to having killed the boy during an interrogation, by "bashing his head in with a stone". However, Major Farran was tried for murder in 1947 and was acquitted for lack of evidence, a fact which has led some to accuse the British authorities of a cover-up.

Afterwards, he emigrated to Canada, where he maintained his innocence until his death. His family declined to comment to The Sunday Telegraph but Gerald Green, 80, a close friend who served alongside him in the Palestine Police, said he was innocent and the documents were a deliberate effort, perhaps concocted by a superior officer, to frame him.

"Roy Farran was a lifelong friend, and a murderer he was certainly not," said Mr Green, who now lives in the Cotswolds. "The whole thing was a put-up stunt. He was one of the most highly decorated officers. He was a legend among fighting men. Someone tried to pin something on him to provoke trouble out there."

He added: "I can think of many atrocities committed by Jewish terrorists." He recalled how many of his friends had been killed or badly injured, including one who was paralysed for life. Asked whether Major Farran had a violent temper, Mr Green said: "No, Roy was always very calm."

In October 1947, the entire investigation file was burned by the British authorities in Palestine. Mr Rambam believes this was an officially sanctioned cover-up. But copies of some documents had been already sent to London, where they were kept secret for almost 60 years until being disclosed in 2005.

Immediately after the case against him collapsed, Major Farran returned home to Liverpool. Soon afterwards, a letter bomb sent to his address killed his brother, Rex. This was apparently dispatched by the Lehi, one of the most dangerous groups in the Jewish underground which fought to establish the state of Israel.

When he visits Britain, Mr Rambam hopes to meet surviving members of the so-called "Q" patrols, the secret counter-terrorism force charged with suppressing the Jewish underground.

His client wants to find Rubowitz's body so that the boy can finally be given a proper burial. The documents suggest his corpse was disposed of somewhere along the road between Jerusalem and Jericho.

Rubowitz's murder took place at a time of particular tension between Britain and Palestine's Jews. Shortly after the Second World War, London tried to avoid Arab unrest by stopping Jewish immigration to Palestine, including the arrival of Holocaust survivors. The Jewish uprising intensified, climaxing in 1946 when another underground movement, the Irgun, bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, then Britain's headquarters.

Major Farran's squad was one of two covert units charged with penetrating the Jewish underground. They showed little restraint and public documents suggest they did torture suspects, including Rubowitz.

But Edward Horne, 87, who serves as President of the Palestine Police Old Comrades' Association, said: "It's not the way the British do things, we were not fighting the Gestapo. I was vehemently against the squads, the incident never should have happened."

"Roy Farran's Long Shadow"

Does a recently released book prove that Alberta's one-time top cop
killed an Israeli teen 64 years ago?

APRIL 18, 2010

The description of the murder is brutal and brief.

It takes place more than 60 years ago, somewhere along a lonely stretch of road between Jerusalem and Jericho. A 16-year-old boy, Alexander Rubowitz, is abducted by a shadowy team of "special forces" British policemen while putting up posters for the Zionist cause in what was then a British-ruled Palestine.

He is taken to an unknown location in an unmarked police car, most likely to a remote olive grove in the Judean Hills about an hour outside of the city. He's interrogated, tortured and finally beaten to death with a rock.

His body is stripped and stabbed repeatedly. His clothes are burned. His remains are never found, his killers never brought to justice.

But the identity of the murderer, at least according to British author David Cesarani's historical book Major Farran's Hat: Murder, Scandal and Britain's War Against Jewish Terrorism, is no longer in question.

"Roy Farran picked up a rock and smashed it against the boy's head," Cesarani writes. "After one or more blows Alexander Rubowitz died."

This part of the story, Cesarani insists, is not conjecture. In 2004, declassified files from a nearly 60-year-old police report surfaced in the National Archives in London, England. For Cesarani, a University of London research professor who has made his academic name as an expert in Jewish history, this puts to rest the mystery surrounding the fate of Rubowitz.

He was murdered in cold blood by war hero, newspaper publisher and one-time solicitor-general of Alberta Roy Farran.

A military court in Jerusalem acquitted Farran of the murder in 1947 and his family believes he's not guilty.

"He was a charming man," says Cesarani, in an interview from his home in London. "He was funny, he was a great raconteur, he was full of joie de vivre. Everybody who met him remembered him fondly. They have very endearing memories of Roy Farran. Just looking at the portraits of him, he was handsome, he was debonair, women threw themselves at him. This was a man who had a light and wonderful side."

"But," Cesarani adds, "he also had a dark side. He was a trained killer. He was merciless."
On June 12, 2006, Farran was given a hero's burial with a military guard leading a procession 10 blocks to his final resting place in Calgary. More in-depth obituaries would make passing reference to the fact this revered man, who boldly battled everything from Nazis in the Second World War to fluoridation in Alberta, spent most of his life under the dark shadow of an unsolved mystery.

Six decades after the disappearance of Rubowitz, the boy has at least figuratively resurfaced.
Cesarani's book, released last year, is seen by some as the historical equivalent of a smoking gun that, once and for all, outlines the boy's fate -- if not the location of his body.

But other characters have surfaced to breathe new life into an old mystery.

Working for an unnamed client, a Brooklyn private eye named Steven Rambam has become the public face of efforts to close the case, find the boy's body and declare Farran a murderer.

To Farran's supporters, the book and the accusations prove nothing and are a continued assault on the reputation of a good man no longer around to defend himself.

But to Rubowitz's family, the 64-year ordeal continues to take its toll.

They've never doubted who was responsible.

Moshe Rubowitz was a toddler when his uncle Alexander was killed.

By 1974, frustrated by the mystery of Rubowitz's missing remains, he took matters into his own hands.

"I visited Calgary trying to meet Farran, but his lawyer and assistant did not allow me to do so," says Moshe, in an interview from his home in Beer Sheva, south of Jerusalem.

"I saw him riding a horse in the head of the Stampede. We went to Calgary to get from Farran any information that will lead to finding the bones and bring them to (a) cemetery. That is why I went with a rabbi (and not a lawyer) and after consulting with some of the leaders within the Jewish community."

"All I wanted to ask him is where the body was buried. All we wanted was to bring him to a proper grave, which we do not have but a stone in Mount Herzl cemetery. Up to the '70s we did not have even that and the sorrow and disappointment were so great."

For the private investigator Rambam, that final piece of the puzzle may soon be in place.

"I think we're pretty close," says Rambam, who estimates his agency has spent more than 500 hours investigating the case, but refuses to disclose who he is working for.

"We believe we are close to finding the body. We have almost certainly determined who assisted Farran in hiding the body. We believe we know the exact area in which it's hidden. We believe we've identified a number of people who, if they chose to, could identify the exact location of the grave."

But if Farran was guilty, why did he do it?

What led an undeniably brave war hero to this horrifying "night of madness?"

Cesarani's Major Farran's Hat puts that night into historical and political context.

The book paints a picture of a British Empire in its dying years, struggling to maintain control of a chaotic Palestine. Farran comes across, much like he does in his own 1948 memoir Winged Dagger, as a globe-trotting soldier exceptionally skilled at both covert operations and killing his enemies.

Cesarani doesn't downplay Farran's wartime heroism, but suggests its genesis stemmed from his deep commitment to Imperialism.

Born in England and raised in British India, Farran would go on to become one of the most decorated soldiers of the Second World War.

He was three times awarded the Military Cross and earned a reputation for ruthless efficiency as an SAS officer. In 1946, he came to Palestine at the end of the British mandate, setting up "Q" patrols with the Palestine police to infiltrate Jewish terrorist cells that were trying to push the British out of the region.

But Palestine was a mess at this time, providing Farran with more distressing evidence that his beloved Empire was crumbling.

"The waning of the British Empire pained him." says Cesarani. "Roy didn't know or care much about Jews until he came to Palestine in 1946. And then I think he had very conflicted feelings."
Not long after arriving in the Middle East, Cesarani claims, Farran became resolutely anti-Zionist. While there is no evidence he was anti-Semitic, he found the actions of the Jewish terrorists to be a grave insult to God and country.

This, Cesarani argues, was Farran's state of mind when patrolling the streets looking for anyone who might have information that would further his campaign. On May 6, 1947, Cesarani says, Farran and his men came across Alexander Rubowitz clutching an armful of anti-British posters on Ussishkin Street in Jerusalem.

According to the book, Farran confessed to killing the teen to his superior officer the next day. Other incriminating evidence surfaced.

Most damning was the discovery of a hat found at the scene that appeared to contain Farran's name on a label. Before the soldier could be charged, he fled to Syria, which some saw as further evidence of his guilt.

Farran was eventually charged with murder and faced a military court in southwest Jerusalem on Oct. 1, 1947. Farran pleaded not guilty in a trial that made headlines around the world.

But through legal manoeuvring, the alleged confession never made it to the trial, Cesarani notes. The hat could not be proven to be Farran's.

The next day, without a body or any eyewitnesses, Farran was acquitted, commanding front page headlines in British newspapers. Cesarani says evidence, including the alleged confession, was carefully destroyed by lawyers following the trial.

Rubowitz's disappearance remained officially unsolved. But the case didn't end there.

Retribution was quick and lethal.

Almost a year to the day Rubowitz was abducted, a parcel arrived by mail to Farran's parents' United Kingdom home in Codsall, Wolverhampton. It was addressed to "R. Farran."

Farran was away visiting friends in Scotland. His brother, Rex, opened it.

The package was rigged and a bomb exploded. Rex was rushed to hospital, but died days later. The device was widely rumoured to have been the work of the Lehi, also known as the Stern gang, an underground Jewish military group Rubowitz was part of.

Rex's death traumatized Farran's family for decades to come -- they took their Christmas parcels to the police before they dared to open them.

But Farran wouldn't go into hiding.

He married in 1950 and moved to Calgary, initially to become a dairy farmer. In Alberta, he was perhaps less adventurous, but still feisty. He founded newspapers, entered municipal politics and eventually became Alberta's solicitor general under then premier Peter Lougheed.

Despite Farran's position of power, accusations of the past murder and a long-standing coverup by the British military were never far behind.

"That rumour's been floating around for a long time. I remember in the Senate people asking about that," says former senator and Lougheed-era MLA Ron Ghitter.

"A lot of us knew about it, particularly in the Jewish community. It seems that there have been a number who feel he did murder the boy. I don't know if it's really been proven," he says.

"You get wrapped up in hearsay and rumours. He was there, he was on the scene, he did escape . . . there was a lot of circumstantial stuff. Clearly, there was a price on Roy's head."

Farran's family did not respond to requests for an interview by the Herald. But a close friend says they do not believe he murdered Rubowitz.

"He told me personally that he never committed such a crime," says Andre Lorent.

"As far as I'm concerned and the family is concerned, we don't believe it. I don't believe that Roy would have committed this."

"If I have to choose between somebody who wrote a book (60) years removed from that time and Roy, I would side behind Roy Farran 100 per cent. We think it's sad to accuse Roy of things he cannot refute."

Gerald Green, who served alongside Farran in the Palestine police, told The Telegraph newspaper in England last year that he believes his friend was innocent. Green, now in his 80s, suggested the documents that surfaced in 2004 could have been doctored by a superior officer to frame Farran.

Farran himself, while saying very little about the scandal in later years, also proclaimed his innocence.

In the 1948 first-edition version of Winged Dagger, Farran claims "at the time of the alleged kidnapping I was having dinner with three Arabs in another part of Jerusalem. Everyone knew that that was an unshakable alibi."

In the chapter entitled Escape From Palestine, 1947, Farran goes on to suggest he was being "thrown to the wolves" for political reasons. At the time, a UN fact-finding commission was in Palestine looking into the British Mandate.

His arrest was meant to show "British impartiality to the world," Farran wrote. His escape and flight to Syria, he explained, was merely an attempt to flee to a neutral country where he could argue with the British government under protection from the Syrians.

But Cesarani insists proof of Farran's guilt is now on file.

He acknowledges it was impossible to challenge the not guilty verdict of the court martial until 2004 when parts of a police report surfaced in the National Archives. First discovered by an Israeli journalist, his findings were only published in Hebrew. Cesarani's book is the first to record, in English, what this evidence suggested.

"When I went to the public records . . . and had a look at that file there was absolutely no doubt from what it contained," Cesarani says.

"The police investigation into the disappearance into Alexander Rubowitz concluded that Roy Farran had murdered him and that Roy had himself admitted to the killing of Alexander Rubowitz in a statement he made to his boss and superior."

Still, Cesarani concedes this evidence would probably be considered hearsay in a court of law, since it's a second-hand report told to a police inspector by Farran's superior.

The book has been enough to convince at least one Farran supporter of his guilt.

Maurice Yacowar, a film studies professor from the University of Calgary, looked to Farran as a mentor in the 1950s when he was hired as a cub reporter for the North Hill News, a paper Farran founded. Last year, Yacowar wrote an article for Alberta Views that began with the alarming opening sentence: "Apparently I have idolized a sadistic war criminal."

Yacowar says he had heard rumblings about the Rubowitz affair when he was working for Farran, but didn't want to believe it. Because of Cesarani's book, he now does.

Still, Yacowar can't help but speak admiringly of his former mentor, who he said had more influence on his life than anyone, other than his parents.

"I met him when I was 16," he says. "That's one of the ironies that struck me. When he hired me, this Jewish kid, I was the age of the Jewish kid he killed."

University of New Brunswick history professor David Charters studied the Farran case as early as the 1970s when he wrote an article on the matter. He again touched on the subject in his 1989 book The British Army and Jewish Insurgency in Palestine, 1945-47.

He acknowledges Major Farran's Hat seems to offer the definitive account of what really happened.

"When I wrote my article 30 years ago there was one very thin file on the Farran case and there were clearly gaps in it," Charters says. "Because of that I had to be very careful about what I wrote. There was enough ambiguity and uncertainty that I wasn't prepared to come out and say, 'This guy committed murder.'

"There was not enough evidence there for that to have stood up to a libel case, so I had to be very careful. Now I think the story is pretty much out there. I don't think there are any surprises waiting in the wings, and it's pretty clear that he did do it."

Still, 64 years later, Rubowitz's body has not been found.

Many of the witnesses that may have been able to back Cesarani's claims have long since died. Farran is no longer around to defend himself.

In Israel, Alexander Rubowitz remains a symbol of the Zionist struggle, a teenage warrior who paid the ultimate price for the Jewish state.

Certainly the incident came at a key time in Middle East politics. Within a few weeks of Farran's acquittal, Britain pulled out of Palestine. In November 1947, the United Nations voted in favour of the partition of Palestine and proposed the creation of a Jewish state, an Arab state, and a UN-administered Jerusalem. Israel declared independence in 1948.

In Jerusalem, a plaque dedicated to Rubowitz commemorates the abduction on the street where it allegedly happened, boldly stating the teen was abducted by "Special Forces" of the British police.

Moshe Rubowitz and wife named their son, now 42, after Alexander.

"I am proud to be a nephew to that boy who gave his life for a state that (had) not existed at that time. Most of us did not have a chance to know him, but we all grew up on his memory as a hero."
Cesarani, while having no doubt about his guilt, says Farran's "night of madness" doesn't prevent us from admiring Farran's heroism and later civic duty in Alberta.

But he hopes the book leads people to think more critically about the impact war has on a man's ability to determine right from wrong.

"We have to be mature and grown up and learn to see people in the shades of grey that most really have," Cesarani says.

"It's impossible for someone to be saintly at the best of times. And I think it's downright naive to believe you can take a young man, particularly someone raised in a Colonial environment, put that young man in a uniform, put him through six, seven years of brutal warfare and expect him at the end of it to be sweetness and light.

"It shouldn't be at all a surprise to discover at some point during those brutal hard years, he did something bad."

When Farran died at the age of 85 in 2006, tributes poured in from all quarters, including from military cohorts such as the late Art Smith, and Mayor Dave Bronconnier also sang his praises.
"They should do a Canadian movie about him," said former captain Bill Wilson in 2006. "He was definitely one of the finest men I've ever met in my life -- soldier, citizen, member of city council -- all those things are great in his life."

For those who knew Farran in Alberta, reopening the Rubowitz case is a pointless assault on his memory.

"He's gone and dead now. What can be gained? It's better to keep in him in fond memory," says Ghitter.

"I prefer to remember him in a very positive light. He contributed considerably during his public life in Alberta. He had a remarkable life."

Investigator Steven Rambam is less forgiving.

"I have no doubt that somewhere in Alberta or in Canada there is someone that Mr. Farran spoke to about this matter and has information that can assist us," he says.

"The decent thing to do is to provide this information so we can give this boy a decent burial."

Jerusalem Post

17 March 2009

ALTHOUGH THERE were witnesses to the murder, the perpetrator who had actually confessed was acquitted. Yet 62 years later, the body of the victim has not been recovered. A substantial reward for information leading to the recovery of the remains of the victim was offered this week by American private investigator Steven Rambam, whose Pallorium detective agency operates in New York, San Antonio, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Toronto and Jerusalem. Rambam has been retained to set the historical record straight, find the remains and bring about closure for members of the victim's family. Addressing a press conference at the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem this week, Rambam was not at liberty to disclose the name of his client, nor the actual sum of the reward.

The case involves the abduction and murder on May 6, 1947 of 16-year old Alexander Rubowitz, a member of the Lehi underground organization, who was captured by Roy Alexander Farran, who headed a special British Palestine police unit. Rubowitz was tortured and later killed by Farran, who smashed in his head with a rock. Farran filed a full report with his commanding officer, but the document in which he implicated himself has conveniently disappeared. Rambam presented a comprehensive report of his investigations and said that the case was still being investigated by the Israel authorities. Although Farran has since died after a long, diverse and successful career in Canada, at least five members of his squad are still living and should be tried for war crimes, said Rambam. While he believes that they can be forced to testify, he doubts that they would ever be brought to trial.

The most dramatic part of the press conference was when Rubowitz's commander Yael Ben Dov rose to speak, and related the story with a degree of passion and recall as if it had taken place only yesterday. After the arrest of Geula Cohen, who had been the Lehi broadcaster and head of Lehi's information effort, Lehi's only means of promoting its views was through posters and the distribution of leaflets. The British were always on the alert for poster people and had no compunction about shooting them. Thus distribution of leaflets and the pasting of posters was very dangerous. For all that, Rubowitz volunteered, and refused to heed warnings from his Lehi colleagues. He had a mission, and he intended to fulfill it. But the British had their eye on him and apprehended him in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood, where he was so well known that witnesses to his abduction were able to identify him. Ben Dov recalled being told about the abduction by a group of children who had picked up a hat that had been knocked off the head of one of the members of the police squad in the struggle in which Rubowitz was forced into a car. Inside the hat's head band was Farran's name.

Rubowitz's three cousins want to give him a proper Jewish burial. Rambam thought that there was a 50/50 chance of recovering the remains by May 6 this year. There are leads, he said, but was either unwilling or unable to explain why the location, in which eye witnesses had seen the murder committed, was not excavated. Nor could he say whether it will be in the few weeks between now and May 6.

The Makings of History - Beyond the Grave


The Israel Defense Forces' missing persons unit is searching for the remains of Alexander Rubowitz, a teenage member of the pre-state Lehi underground militia who was murdered in 1947, and has even enlisted the help of a private investigations firm in New York. Two unit members attended a press conference on the matter this week at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. An American detective, Steve Rambam, claimed there is a chance that Rubowitz's remains will be found in Wadi Kelt east of Jerusalem, in the West Bank.

It was an interesting event. Although nothing historically new was revealed, at a time when Likud is preparing to form a government, it once again illustrated the centrality of history in Israeli political discourse. 

When he was approximately 16 years old, Rubowitz was arrested. It was the evening of May 6, 1947 and he was in the process of distributing Lehi flyers in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood. The members of the British counter-terror unit who arrested him drove him toward Jericho. One of them, Roy Farran, beat Rubowitz to death with a rock, and his body was never discovered.

The case kicked up a storm. Farran was court-martialed, acquitted, and returned to England. Lehi members sent him a letter bomb, which killed his brother. Farran emigrated to Canada where he entered politics; late in life he served as solicitor general of the state of Alberta. He died about three years ago. Farran always denied killing Rubowitz, but official British documents that were unsealed five years ago strengthen the suspicions against him.

Initially, Rubowitz was only included in the heroic pantheon of the right-wing terrorist groups Etzel and Lehi. But over time, Israeli cultural memory grew to include individuals who did not operate under the auspices of the Labor Movement, at which point Rubowitz's name went up on a memorial plaque, next to the site of his arrest. There is also a street in Jerusalem named after him.

The Rubowitz affair is quite well known; the unsealing of the British papers documenting the case was covered in a Haaretz article by. A new book on Rubowitz's murder has just come out ("Major Farran's Hat"), written by the well-known British historian David Cesarani, and Canadian Television CBC is making a film about the case. The main element keeping Rubowitz's case alive is the question mark that continues to hover over it: Where is the body? As long as it isn't found, Rubowitz is officially considered missing.

Several months ago, a veteran of the Revisionist Movement who lives in the United States contacted Pallorium Inc., the investigative services firm owned by Steve Rambam, a former member of the Betar youth movement, and asked him to investigate Rubowitz's murder. At a press conference he convened in Jerusalem this week, Rambam claimed to have a lead on the body's burial site. He said he is working together with the IDF, but refused to go into details.

This story resembles the search for the body of Avshalom Feinberg, of the Nili underground organization working with the British against the Turks in World War II, which was found after the Six-Day War with the help of a few elderly Bedouin in Sinai. As with the Feinberg case, the Rubowitz case also has a political aspect to it. According to Rambam, he has managed to track down several of Farran's associates, and the law allows for trying them as war criminals.



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