explainer

Bizarre details have emerged about the two sisters whose bodies washed ashore in New York.

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Last Wednesday, October 24, just before 3pm, a person wandering through Riverside Park on New York’s Upper West Side was confronted with an unsettling sight. Washed up on the rocky banks of the Hudson, near the 68th Street Pier, lay the bodies of two young women.

They wore similar black leggings and fur-trimmed jackets, and were duct-taped together around the waist and feet, their lifeless bodies facing each other.

For days the women’s identities remained unknown. Then on Friday, the New York Police Department named them as sisters Rotana Farea, 22, and Tala Farea, 16.

In the days since, authorities have continued piecing together what happened to the Saudi Arabian nationals, the youngest of which had been missing from her home in Fairfax, Virginia, since August. It’s currently unclear how long they’d been in New York, or what lead to their deaths.

“We’re looking at a two-month gap,” Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea told reporters yesterday. “The detectives’ work has filled in many of the pieces, but there’s still some gaps that we would like to fill in and get a real clear picture of what happened in the last two months.”

A cause of death is yet to be determined, but police stated that Rotana and Tala’s bodies showed no obvious signs of trauma. Their deaths are being treated as suspicious.

Police comb Hudson River crime scene. Image: ABC News.
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Bid for asylum.

According to The New York Times, the day before Rotana and Tala's bodies were discovered, their mother received a phone call from the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. notifying her that her daughters had applied for asylum in the United States.

Saudi Arabia’s Consulate General issued a statement on Tuesday that said the sisters were students “accompanying their brother in Washington", and that it had appointed an attorney to "follow the case closely".

A history of going missing.

Police said the sisters were first reported missing in Fairfax County in 2017, and when they were found asked for protection and were placed in a shelter, according to The New York Times,

Tala was then reported missing again on August 24 this year, and a missing persons poster was distributed online that suggested she might by with her sister.

However, Saudi Arabian English-language newspaper Arab News reported denials from the young women's family that they had been missing over the past two months. The outlet claimed Rotana had moved to New York, and though Tala had been reported missing by her mother, they then realised she was visiting her older sister and withdrew the report.

The mother reportedly lost contact with the pair just days before their bodies were found, the outlet reported.

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