Two Saudi sisters whose bodies were found taped together on the banks of a New York river committed suicide, the city’s medical examiner said on Tuesday.
Rotana Farea, 22, and her sister Tala, 16, were found beside the Hudson River in late October with no visible signs of trauma, dressed all in black with fur-trimmed coat collars.
They were tied together at the ankles and waist by duct tape.
“My office determined that the death of the Farea sisters was the result of suicide, in which the young women bound themselves together before descending into the Hudson River,” Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson said.
After their deaths, a police official appeared to confirm that the sisters had applied for asylum, but did not provide further detail.
Fatimah Baeshen, spokeswoman for Saudi Arabia’s US embassy in Washington, tweeted that “Reports that we ordered anyone related to the Saudi sisters, Tala and Rotana Farea, God rest their souls, (who recently died tragically in NY), to leave the US for seeking asylum; are absolutely false.”
They had run away several times from their family’s home in Virginia, where they had not lived since the end of 2017.
The sisters had been placed in a shelter but left Virginia in August and set out for New York. There, they stayed in several different upscale hotels and maxed out a credit card, according to an NYPD spokesman quoted by US media.
A witness reportedly saw the two young women early on October 24 on a playground near the Hudson, where they appeared to be praying.
US media quoted police as saying the sisters had indicated that they would rather harm themselves than return to Saudi Arabia.
The kingdom is one of the world’s most restrictive countries for women, a situation highlighted this month by the case of Rahaf Mohammed.
The teenager fled what she said was physical and psychological abuse from her family in the kingdom, and received asylum in Canada.