Dudu Topaz, a disgraced Israeli television star and under investigation for allegedly ordering attacks on local TV executives, committed suicide in prison Thursday morning. He used a cord from an electric kettle to hang himself from a shower tap while seated.
Topaz was present for the 7 a.m. roll call, went to the shower and was found dead by prison guards ten minutes later. Attempts were made to resuscitate him, but in vain.
The entertainer had been under 24-hour surveillance since he previously tried to commit suicide shortly after reports of his alleged offenses surfaced in May.
Topaz's trial for hiring goons in vicious assaults on Shira Margalit, deputy director-general of the Reshet television network, Avi Nir, director-general of the Keshet network, and acting agent Boaz Ben-Zion, had been set to resume on August 25. He was apparently taking it out on them as they kept removing his programmes following steep fall in his TV ratings.
He was also accused of plotting an attack on Amos Regev, editor of the Yisrael Hayom
newspaper, who turned down Topaz's idea to write a column.
Last week, an envelope addressed to entertainer Tzvika Hadar was found in a post office in the capital's Givat Shaul neighborhood with a bullet and a threatening letter inside. According to police, a fingerprint examination of the envelope raised suspicions that Topaz had sent the letter. The unsigned letter contained the following message: "This is the end, and one day it will culminate with a bomb."
Topaz was once known as the "king of ratings." His attorney told Ha'aretz that his client's suicide was a result of the intensive media coverage surrounding his arrest.
He had hosted a variety show so popular that homes across the country went dark after he told viewers they should turn off their lights because flying saucers were about to appear.
But over time he lost prime time slot, and he desperately tried various stratagems to rehabilitate himself. He was angry that TV bosses were not being helpful.
It was a huge fall from grace for the comic who dominated television in the 1990s when the Israeli cable industry was getting on its feet. His unsophisticated, often vulgar humor made him a 'people's' entertainer, however he was never fully accepted by the upper crust media who deemed his style too base to be considered culture.
Despite his knack for controversy, Topaz had all but disappeared from TV screens recently, as younger hosts and reality shows took over what was once his domain.
Now the country will be spared a long, steamy trial filled with gossipy details of the attacks and the personalities behind them. It may be the most compassionate thing Topaz ever did for his viewing audience. David Brinn, noted commentator said.
Israel's Prison Services said Thursday that it would investigate the circumstances of Topaz's suicide.