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Saudi sisters found dead seen praying in park near Hudson River, cops say

The sisters maxed out their credit card in the days leading up to their deaths, police said.

The bodies of Tala Farea, 16, left, and

The bodies of Tala Farea, 16, left, and Rotana, 22, were found along the Hudson River on the Upper West Side on Oct. 24, police said. Photo Credit: Composite: NYPD

Two sisters from Saudi Arabia found bound and dead near the Hudson River last month were seen praying in a park near the water hours before their bodies were discovered, police said on Friday.

Detectives, using credit card records and other leads, have determined that Tala Farea, 16, and her sister Rotana Farea, 22, arrived in New York City around Labor Day following a trip that took them from their home state of Virginia to Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, according to an NYPD spokesman.

The pair were last seen on Aug. 23 in Fairfax, Virginia, where they had been staying in a shelter since December 2017 due to allegations of abuse, NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said. Based on records, the sisters are believed to have arrived in Manhattan on or about Sept. 1 — spending lavishly on high-end hotels, restaurants and boutiques until their credit card was maxed out, Shea said.

Surveillance video captured the women, who appeared to be in good health, on at least two occasions.

"That takes us to Wednesday, Oct. 24," Shea said, when a passer-by called 911 to report two bodies on the rocks along the Hudson River in the vicinity of 68th Street and Riverside Park.

The women were loosely bound together at the ankles and waist by duct tape, according to police. Their bodies had no signs of trauma and police believe they were alive before they entered the water.

"There were no marks on the body that would be indicative of a fall from a height," Shea said.

As investigators continued to delve into the mystery of how and why the pair ended up dead in the Hudson River, Shea said a witness came forward to tell a story that he said was "haunting him."

The man, who exercises in the park regularly, told police he came across two women who were praying in the playground of the park around 7 a.m. on the morning of Oct. 24, the same day the sisters were found dead. Investigators believe the sisters were those women, according to Shea.

"Where we are today, this is still an ongoing investigation," Shea said, but added: "We have no credible information that any crime took place."

The mystery surrounding their deaths has garnered international media attention, particularly after police said their mother reported the family had been ordered back to Saudi Arabia after the sisters applied for asylum in the United States.

NYPD detectives spent several days in Virginia following leads and running down information about the immigration status and possible asylum claims, officials said.

Shea said the sisters had made statements that they would rather harm themselves or take their own lives than go back to Saudi Arabia.

Police are awaiting the medical examiner's ruling on the causes of death for both women.


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