The deaths of two Saudi sisters who recently sought asylum in the U.S. and whose bodies were discovered fully clothed and duct-taped together at the feet and waist last Wednesday on the banks of the Hudson River are under investigation.
The mother of the sisters, Rotana Farea (22) and Tala Farea (16), lives in Fairfax, Virginia. Some reports indicate that the older sister, Rotana, may have been living in New York.
According to the New York Times, their mother had been notified her daughters had sought asylum in the U.S. earlier this month. The family arrived in the U.S. in 2015, having previously lived in Jeddah.
One report claims the sisters had been ordered home to Saudi Arabia and may have feared punishment if they returned.
After the discovery of their bodies, the NYPD asked for assistance in identifying them and put out a sketch of the pair.
Please help us identify these two female individuals found in the vicinity of 68 St & Riverside Park in the Upper West Side of #Manhattan. Anyone who recognizes them or has any information about this incident can call @NYPDTips at #1800577TIPS pic.twitter.com/57jSbfJL3t
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) October 25, 2018
On Saturday the NYPD announced they had been identified.
INTERIM UPDATE: I want to thank the public for your help @NYPDTips thus far. While Rotana and Tala Farea have been identified, our investigation continues. Anyone with information about the Farea sisters is encouraged to call Crimestoppers 800-577-TIPS (8477). pic.twitter.com/445CUj8IJ9
— Chief Rodney Harrison (@NYPDDetectives) October 27, 2018
The medical examiner’s office hasn’t yet announced the cause of death, but at this time authorities are looking at both suicide and homicide as possibilities.
Police believe that the bodies went into the water near the George Washington Bridge. However, there was no trauma to their bodies that would indicate they had jumped from the bridge. Surveillance cameras showed no signs of them on the bridge.
The Saudi consulate in New York has said they are following the investigation.
The Consulate General is following closely with local authorities the investigation of the two Saudi citizens found in the Hudson river.
تتابع القنصلية العامة مع السلطات المحلية تفاصيل حادثة قضية المواطنتين السعوديتين اللتين عثر عليهما في نهر هدسون.
— Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in New York (@KSAconsulateNY) October 29, 2018
The sisters had been in contact with their mother up until last week.
They had been previously reported missing in December 2017. When they were found, they reportedly asked for police protection and were placed in a homeless shelter.
The younger sister, Tala, was reported missing again in August by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It was later discovered she was with her older sister in New York and the search called off. At no time did they return to live with their family.
They were again reported missing earlier this month, and the Virginia State Police published a missing persons poster that was later taken down after the discovery of their bodies last week.
The incident is being widely covered by Arabic news channels.