New York police are investigating the deaths of two Saudi Arabian sisters whose bodies were found duct-taped together on the bank of the Hudson River last week.
They have been identified as Tala Faera, 16, and Rotana Farea, 22, by police, who said the sisters were found fully clothed without any obvious signs of trauma.
Their bodies were discovered beneath an elevated uptown stretch of Manhattan’s Westside Highway, not far from the George Washington Bridge – one of three Hudson River crossings for traffic coming north from Washington.
The women came to the US in 2015 with their mother. They lived in Fairfax, Virginia – a suburb of Washington DC about 360 kilometres from the Hudson.
In December 2017, police said the sisters were placed in a shelter after an earlier disappearance in 2017.
They were reported missing again on August 24 this year.
New York Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said police were particularly interested in finding out what happened since the sisters were reported missing and what led them to New York.
“We are looking at all clues in their past life,” he said.
‘Embassy told family to leave US’
A day before their bodies were discovered, their mother told detectives she had received a call from an official at the Saudi Arabian embassy, ordering the family to leave the US because her daughters had applied for political asylum, New York police said.
In a statement, the Saudi consulate-general said embassy officials in Washington had contacted the family and “extended its support and aid in this trying time”, and noted that the sisters were students “accompanying their brother in Washington”.
Rotana was enrolled at George Mason University but left earlier this year.
A George Mason spokesman called the news of her death “tragic” and said the university was co-operating with police.
Detective Shea told a media conference that investigators were working to resolve gaps in the sisters’ history.
Police released sketches of the sister’s faces and posted repeated calls for public help in identifying them on social media.
“We are out to get justice for those two girls and find out exactly what happened,” Detective Shea said.
In a statement, the Saudi consulate-general said embassy officials in Washington had contacted the family and “extended its support and aid in this trying time”.
Saudi Arabia’s consulate-general in New York has appointed a lawyer “to follow the case closely”.
The medical examiner’s office was investigating the cause of death.