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January 17, 2019

Saudi sisters seen ‘praying’ right before their death — detectives

November 2, 2018
Police released photos of Tala Farea, 16, and her older sister Rotana Farea, 22, in the hopes that someone recognizes them from the day they went into the water. (NYPD)

The two Saudi sisters found dead on the banks of the Hudson River were seen praying together in a nearby playground several hours before their bodies were discovered, police said Friday.

An eyewitness who came forward on Wednesday told detectives that he had seen Tala Farea, 16, and her older sister Rotana Farea, 22, in a playground in Riverside Park near W. 158th St., NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said Friday.

“He said that they were about 30 feet apart,” Shea said. “He described them as alone. They were sitting with their hands on their heads, which were lowered as if they were praying.”

The witness saw the sisters at about 7 a.m. on Oct. 24 — some seven hours before their bodies were found duct taped together on the rocks, Shea said.

“(The playground) is a short distance from the Hudson River,” Shea said. “It’s entirely credible that they entered the water alive.”

After running away from their home in Fairfax, Va., the girls were put into a shelter in their home state, Shea explained.

In August, the two ran away from the shelter and traveled to New York City, where they “stayed at a number of high-end hotels” in Manhattan and ordered room service, Shea said.

“From the video we’ve recovered, they appear to be in good health up to a week before they were discovered,” Shea said.

Yet, at the same time, investigators learned that whatever money they had was petering out.

Detectives learned that the girls had accused family members of abusing them in Virginia. That and the fact that their money was running out has lead some to believe that the siblings took part in a suicide pact.

“There is no credible information that any crime took place in New York City, but it is still under investigation,” Shea said.

The sisters moved to the U.S. from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in mid-2015, sources said.

Family members said the sisters were seeking asylum in the U.S, and the Saudi government had ordered the entire family home, police said. Detectives haven’t found any connection between the Saudi government and their deaths, he said.

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