Two immigrant sisters from Saudi Arabia whose bodies washed up on the New York City waterfront, bound together with duct tape, had told people that they would rather harm themselves than go back to their home country, investigators said Friday.
Tala Farea (16) and her 22-year-old sister Rotana were discovered in the Hudson River on October 24. They say there were no obvious signs of trauma.
According to investigators, the girls' mother, who still lives in Virginia, told police she got a call from the Saudi embassy the day before their bodies were discovered, saying the family had to leave the USA because her daughters applied for political asylum.
A spokesman for the New York Police Department earlier said there was no evidence tying the Saudi government to their deaths.
The sisters' photos also were released publicly Wednesday by NY police, along with an appeal to the public for information about them and how their remains might have ended up along the waterfront around 68th Street and Riverside Park on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
Police officers also revealed they were contacted Wednesday by a "credible" witness who told investigators he saw two girls sitting in the playground of Riverside Park at around 7 a.m. on the 24th and praying loudly - sitting about 30 feet apart with their heads down.
Dermot Shea, the New York Police Department's chief of detectives, said to reporters this week.
"Embassy officials have not communicated with family members in relation to their seeking asylum, if this is indeed the case", the official said.
Police said that credit card records show Tala and Rotana first stopped in Washington, D.C. and then Philadelphia before arriving in Manhattan.
Rotana Farea was enrolled at George Mason University in Fairfax, but left in the spring.
"They never spoke", the neighbour said.
A relative told "Arab News" that there had not been any family trouble involving the two sisters.
The sisters first left their family's home in Fairfax, Virginia, back in November a year ago. They were reported missing on a few occasions, and were last seen by family in November 2017.
About eight months later, in August, the girls went missing from the facility where they had been staying. The New York City police said on Friday the medical examiner has not yet made a determination on the cause or manner of death.
"They were in New York City since September 1st, staying in a number of hotels", Shea said. The sisters did, police said, reference the allegations of abuse when applying. Those reports have not yet been corroborated by the NYPD, Shea said.