Police say Saudi sisters entered water alive

Cheryl Sanders
November 3, 2018

Shea said investigators were able to confirm through Uber records that the sisters traveled for most of August until they arrived in New York City on September 1. Police earlier said Rotana was 22 years old.

The sisters were last seen by their family in Virginia on November 30, 2017, Shea said.

The two had previously been placed in a shelter after another disappearance in 2017, reportedly asking police not to reveal their location. "They were sitting with their heads in their hands, their heads lowered, and they were making noises loudly that he described as praying", Shea said, relaying the witness's statement.

Detectives tracing their credit card usage discovered that they first went to Washington and then Philadelphia before arriving in NY on September 1, police said.

For the next two months - until their apparent suicide on October 24 - they ran up a credit card at luxe Manhattan hotels, including the Hilton, Knickerbocker and Hyatt, officials said. The credit card was maxed out.


He said that the girls were sitting in a playground at the park, sitting about 30 feet apart but appearing to be together.

According to the Chief Shea, an eyewitness came forward on Wednesday because of a "story that is haunting him".

Investigators are looking into reports the girls were allegedly physically abused in the past by family members.

Authorities believe the pair were alive when they entered the water. Shea said police also relied on surveillance footage from up to six days before their bodies were found, which showed the sisters together alone and in good health, showing no sign of distress.

Detectives used eye-witness testimonies, video evidence and evidence from the eldest sister's credit card purchases for food, hotel and transportation to determine that there likely was no foul play before their deaths.


The cause of death has not been determined as forensics reports are being compiled. A George Mason spokesman called the news of her death "tragic", and said the university was cooperating with police.

They had recently applied for asylum in the U.S. after arriving in 2015.

"Those interviews are unravelling pieces of the puzzle about what is happening behind the scenes and what was going on with the girls' lives", NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea told reporters.

Department of Homeland Security officials declined to comment and referred questions to the NYPD as the lead on the case.

Both had come to the United States two or three years ago.


In August, Tala was reported missing but the search was called off when she was found to be living with Rotana in the Big Apple, who was studying Computer and Information Technology. Authorities are investigating whether the deaths were the result of suicide, homicide or an accident, said Phil Walzak, deputy commissioner for public information for the NY police.

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