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Sisters found dead in Hudson River were ordered home by Saudis, mom says

Detectives were poring over files detailing the family’s immigration status.

The bodies of Tala, 16, left, and Rotana,

The bodies of Tala, 16, left, and Rotana, 22, were found along the Hudson River on Wednesday afternoon on the Upper West Side, police said. Photo Credit: NYPD

NYPD investigators are looking into a claim by the mother of two sisters found dead in the Hudson River last week that they had been ordered to return to their native Saudi Arabia because the girls had applied for asylum in the United States, a law enforcement official said Monday.

The sisters, Tala, 16, and Rotana, 22, were found dead in the river Wednesday afternoon, their bodies bound together with duct tape and no obvious signs of trauma, officials reported at the time.

Late Monday, detectives were poring over files detailing the family’s immigration status and were in contact with the Department of State, looking for any evidence that the dead sisters had applied for asylum, an NYPD spokesman said. The family first arrived in the United States in mid-2015, the spokesman added.

Both young women had initially been reported missing by their family in December 2017, at which time police in Fairfax, Virginia, determined that they were safe and living in an area homeless shelter, said the official who didn’t want to be identified.

For reasons which are still unclear, the sisters never returned to their family residence in Fairfax but went missing in August. Virginia State Police put out a missing persons poster on one of the sisters but took it down when the bodies were found, said an agency spokeswoman.

The mother’s claim that her daughters were ordered back to the Mideast added another element to a story that continues to puzzle investigators. Cops have speculated the sisters may have feared being disciplined by their family for living in a shelter, as well as what they would face if they were forced to return to Saudi Arabia.

NYPD officials have been leaning on the theory that the Farea sisters may have jointly committed suicide. But since the autopsy results were incomplete as of late Monday, there is no official cause and manner of death listed, said a spokeswoman for the city medical examiner.

An NYPD spokesman on Monday discounted reports the women may have jumped from the George Washington Bridge because surveillance cameras found no evidence. A fall into the Hudson from the bridge would also have caused trauma to the bodies, as well as shredded the duct tape binding the sisters together, police said. Investigators were looking for possible points of entry for the bodies on either side of the river, the NYPD said.

Police in Fairfax had been the lead agency in the missing person case. But officials there referred all calls to the NYPD. Officials at the Embassy for Saudi Arabia didn’t return telephone messages and emails for comment.

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