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Saudi sisters whose bodies were found bound together near Hudson River died by suicide

Tala Farea, 16, and Rotana Farea, 23, had reportedly made statements they would harm themselves rather than return to Saudi Arabia.

Two Saudi sisters found dead on the edge of New York's Hudson River in October entered the water bound to each other and killed themselves, the medical examiner’s office said Tuesday.

The bodies of Tala Farea, 16, and Rotana Farea, 23, were found on Oct. 24, police said.

The bodies of sisters Rotana, left, and Tala Farea were discovered on on the banks of New York City's Hudson River waterfront on Oct. 24, 2018.
The bodies of sisters Rotana, left, and Tala Farea were discovered on on the banks of New York City's Hudson River waterfront on Oct. 24, 2018.NYPD via AP

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said in a statement that "the young women bound themselves together before descending into the Hudson River." The causes of death of both were listed as drowning and the manner suicide.

Suicide had previously been called by investigators a leading theory in their deaths, and when their bodies were found they had been duct-taped together.

The sisters, who had been living in Virginia, were desperate not to return to Saudi Arabia, investigators have said.

Detectives were told the sisters had previously made statements that "they would rather inflict harm on themselves, commit suicide, than return to Saudi Arabia," NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said in November.

Shea said in November that neither sister had lived with their parents since Nov. 30, 2017, when they ran away. In December of that year they were located and placed in a "shelter-type" facility in Virginia, he said at the time. They remained there until Aug. 23 or 24, when they went missing from that facility, and the family told police they had no contact with the women during that time, according to Shea.

The sisters are believed to have been in New York City since Sept. 1, staying at a number of hotels.

Police have said a witness said he saw the pair in a playground near the river in Manhattan's Riverside Park on the morning their bodies were found. They were sitting about 30 feet away from each other and appeared to be praying.

There were reports that the sisters' mother told detectives that on the day before the bodies were discovered, she received a call from an official at the Saudi Arabian Embassy, ordering the family to leave the U.S. because the daughters had applied for political asylum.

A spokesperson for the embassy for Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C., in November said that reports anyone related to the sisters were ordered to leave the U.S. for seeking asylum were "absolutely false."