No foul play suspected in deaths of Saudi sisters found duct-taped together in New York's Hudson River

Investigators told Farea sisters 'would rather inflict harm on themselves' than return home

Tom Barnes
Sunday 04 November 2018 00:46 GMT
The bodies of Tala and Rotana Farea were discovered on the banks of the Hudson River in New York City
The bodies of Tala and Rotana Farea were discovered on the banks of the Hudson River in New York City (AP)

Police have ruled out the possibility of foul play in the case of two Saudi Arabian sisters whose bodies washed up on the New York City waterfront bound together in duct tape.

Tala Farea, 16, and Rotana Farea, 23, were discovered near the Hudson River on 24 October, two months after they were last seen in Fairfax, Virginia, where they had been living in a shelter amid allegations that they were abused at home.

Police believe the pair had been staying in expensive Manhattan hotels since 1 September until a credit card they were using had been maxed out.

A jogger then saw them praying at a playground near the river hours before their bodies were found.

New York City Police chief of detectives Dermot Shea said those who knew the Farea sisters had told investigators “they would rather inflict harm on themselves — commit suicide — than return to Saudi Arabia.”

Stopping short of saying the pair had taken their own lives, Chief Shea said police had “no credible information that any crime took place.”

The medical examiner has yet to rule on their death and the case remains under investigation, he added.

When found, police said the sisters’ bodies were taped together, facing each other and fully clothed and appeared to have been alive when they entered the water.

However, officers were unable to find any obvious signs of trauma.

The mysterious deaths of the Farea sisters have drawn worldwide attention with their discovery caoming the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the country’s Turkish consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

Tala and Rotana moved to the US from Saudi Arabia with their mother in 2015, settling in Fairfax, a suburb of Washington DC, police said.

The sisters left their family home and were placed in a shelter-like facility after an earlier disappearance, in December 2017. At the time, Shea said, “It was raised that they were the subject of abuse.”

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Rotana was enrolled at George Mason University, in Fairfax, but left in the spring.

Police released sketches of the sister’s faces and posted repeated calls for the public’s help in identifying them on social media.

Once they were identified, police sent detectives to Virginia to piece together the last months of their lives.

The jogger who said he saw the sisters praying went to the police on Wednesday. He told detectives it had been “haunting him,” Mr Shea said.

Additional reporting by AP

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