Police have released the first photographs of Saudi Arabian sisters who were found drowned and duct taped together in the Hudson River last week in a plea for information about their mysterious lives and murky deaths.
Tala Farea, 16, and Rotana Farea, 22, were found washed up on October 24. The sisters were living together in New York City where Rotana was studying Computer and Information Technology after recently dropping out of George Mason University in Virginia.
Their parents, Wafa’a and Abdulsalam, live in Virginia with their brothers who are 18 and 11. Abdulsalam often traveled back to Saudi Arabia for work but no information about his job has emerged.
In August, the family reported 16-year-old Tala missing after she disappeared from Virginia but the search was called off when they learned she had gone to stay with her sister in New York City.
She had recently been awarded a spot at a top private school in Saudi Arabia with a full scholarship but was desperate not to go.
It was the second time they broke off from the family.
In December last year, the pair fled to a shelter in Fairfax. The family reported them both missing.
When officers tracked them down, the sisters begged them not to tell the family where they were. What led to them returning home remains a mystery but police are focusing their investigation on the circumstances surrounding it.
Tala Farea, 16, (left) and Rotana Farea, 22, (right) were found washed up on October 24. Police released these photographs of the sisters on Wednesday. These are the passport images they likely used when entering the US in 2015
These are the sketches that were issued when the girls bodies’ were found last week
Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said yesterday: ‘We are looking at all clues in their past life.’
The family in Virginia is yet to speak out about their disappearance despite DailyMail.com’s repeated attempts to contact their representative.
On October 23, the girls’ mother Wafa’a received a phone call from an official at the Saudi Arabian consulate who ordered the entire family to return to their home country. It was in response to an application by the two sisters for political asylum in the United States.
TIMELINE OF SAUDI SISTERS’ LIVES AND DEATH
2015: Family moves to Fairfax, Virginia from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
December 2017: Sisters run away and beg police not to tell mom where they were. They return back to Virginia at some stage afterwards
May 2018: Oldest sister attends final classes at George Mason
August 2018: Tala is reported missing. The search is called off when police learn she is with her sister in New York City.
October 17: Mother’s last known contact with the sisters, according to relatives
October 23: Mother receives call from Saudi Consulate ordering the family home because the girls have applied for political asylum
October 24: The girls bodies are found washed up in the Hudson River
Police have ruled out that the pair jumped from the George Washington Bridge in a suicide pact, a theory that was initially pushed out by police, because neither body had visible signs of trauma.
It is not known how long they were dead before they were found but police struggled to identify them for days.
Rotana dropped out of George Mason in May this year after two years of studies. George Mason, a public university with 35,000 students has close ties to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Arabia Cultural Mission has gifted the college $63 million and has paid for the education of 270 of its 370 Saudi students.
Rather than live on campus like many of her classmates, Rotana traveled back to her home in Falls Church, Virginia where she lived with her mother, brother and Tala.
Rotana attended classes at the Volgenau School of Engineering and sources say she planned to major in bio-engineering when she returned this fall.
But the University told DailyMail.com that Rotana never returned in August to complete her education.
Problems arose for Rotana when she learned her whole family would have to return to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
A source at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, DC told DailyMail.com Rotana’s sister Tala had won a full scholarship to study at Dar Al-Fikr, a top private school in Jeddah.
Rotana Farea dropped out of the University’s engineering college in Fairfax, Virginia, before she could begin a major in bioengineering in August
Tala had briefly studied in 2017 at Fairfax High School, close to George Mason University. Rotana and Tala’s mother contacted The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on August 24 after Tala went missing from home.
She then called off the search after learning Tala was with Rotana in New York.
She also told authorities the pair were applying for asylum in the US to avoid returning to Jeddah.
Family members told
They are insisting that the pair did not commit suicide and are waiting to find out the cause of death from the Chief Medical Examiner, which has not yet released findings from the autopsies.
The family lived here at the Skyline Apartments in Falls Church, Virginia. The girls are however thought to have been in New York City since late August
The bodies of the two women that were bound together by duct tape washed up from New York’s Hudson River on Wednesday. Police are seen here removing one of the bodies
The bodies were laying on rocks near the river when authorities arrived on the scene
In a statement released today, the Saudi Arabian Consulate General in New York said the Farea sisters were ‘citizens accompanying their brother in Washington’ and it had ‘appointed an attorney to follow the case closely’.
Rotana and Tala were found fully clothed, wearing black jackets with fur trim and black leggings, when their bodies washed up near Riverside Park last week.
Their bodies were bound together with duct tape that was tied around their feet and waists. The pair were found facing each other.
A passerby called 911 at 2.40pm on Wednesday after spotting the two bodies, which were found laying on rocks by the river when police arrived at the scene.
The sisters’ father has since arrived in New York following news of their death.
It remains unclear what he did for a living but he frequently traveled between the US and Saudi Arabia for work.
The family moved to Virginia in 2015. It is not known why this was where they chose to settle.
Authorities received a 911 call at 2.40pm from a passerby who spotted the two bodies floating in the water off the city’s Upper West Side neighborhood
Authorities can be seen carrying two stretchers as they cleared the bodies from the scene