Medical examiners in New York have ruled that the mysterious deaths of two sisters found dead and duct taped together on the banks of the Hudson River was a double suicide. The cause of death was drowning.
The bodies of Rotana Ferea, 23 and Tala Farea, 16 were discovered on October, 24 2018 near the George Washington Bridge. They were quickly identified as Saudi citizens who had gone missing from a shelter-like facility, possibly for abused women, in Fairfax, Virginia in August.
"Today, 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 Dr. Barbara Sampson said in a statement on Tuesday.
The sisters' bodies were found both wearing black leggings and fur-trimmed jackets. They were bound together loosely with duct tape at the waist and ankles. A witness reported seeing the Fareas earlier that day praying loudly and holding their heads in their hands near the area where it's believed they then walked into the water, intentionally drowning themselves.
The sisters had allegedly applied for asylum in the United States in the months before their death and been denied. At a press conference, NYPD Detective Dermot F. Shea reported that while that Fairfax, VA facility the women had said they would rather inflict harm upon themselves than return to Saudi Arabia. They also alleged abuse by their mother, father, and brother.
After leaving Fairfax in August, the Fareas made their way to New York City where they stayed in high end hotels and ordered takeout meals on a credit card in Rotana's name. Around October, shortly before they died by suicide, police believe the "money started to run out" as they reached the limit on the card.
The Farea sisters' death – along with the story of Rahaf Mohammed, an 18-year-old Saudi citizen who fled her family and found asylum in Canada – has drawn negative attention to Saudi Arabian guardianship laws. These restrictions include the requirement that women have the permission of a male to travel. Advocates say this can trap women in abusive situations.