The mother of two Saudi Arabian sisters whose bodies washed up last week on Manhattan’s shoreline, bound together with tape, said an official at the Saudi Arabian Embassy had told her just before the daughters were discovered that her family had been ordered to leave the U.S. because her daughters had requested political asylum, authorities said Tuesday.
According to the Associated Press, the daughters have been identified as 16-year-old Tala Farea and 22-year-old Rotana Farea, who lived in Fairfax, Virginia. Both the New York Police Department and Saudi officials have said they are looking into the deaths.
The sisters were discovered last Wednesday on the bank of the Hudson River. They were fully clothed and bound together, facing one another. Medical examiners have not determined cause of death. The bodies appeared not to show any signs of major trauma, ruling out the initial police theory that they had jumped from the George Washington Bridge, according to the AP. Police are still investigating the possibility of suicide, but they are not ruling out murder.
According to the Arab News, an English paper in Saudi Arabia, their mother reported Tala, the younger daughter, missing months ago but called off the search when she learned Tala was staying with Rotana in New York City. It’s unclear where the sisters were staying before they died.
According to the New York Times, authorities say the sisters were also reported missing last year, and when local police found them, the sisters asked for protection and were placed in a shelter. In August, Tala was reported missing, and in October, someone again reported the sisters missing, according to the Times.
A Saudi consulate official said the two sisters were students “accompanying their brother in Washington,” according to a statement from the Saudi Arabian Consulate General posted Tuesday. The older sister was enrolled at George Mason University, but she left in the spring. According to the AP, the two sisters had moved with their family to Fairfax from Saudi Arabia in 2015.