Saudi sisters found in river spoke of harming themselves

The bodies of Tala Farea 16 and Rotana Farea 22 were found duct-taped together in the Hudson River

The two Saudi-born sisters who washed up dead off West 68th Street last month - their bodies duct-taped together, face to face - had run away from their Virginia home late past year and apparently killed themselves after maxing out a credit card at high-end Manhattan hotels, NYPD officials revealed Friday.

In a statement, the Saudi consulate general said it will "follow the case closely" and the sisters "were students accompanying their brother in Washington". The sisters had previously gone missing on Dec 1, 2017, before they were found the next day, Fairfax Count police said.

Saudi officials are looking into whether the sisters applied for asylum in the United States, a Saudi official told CNN.

The mysterious deaths of the Farea sisters have drawn worldwide attention and fueled rampant speculation and online conspiracy theories in the wake of the October 2 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi embassy in Turkey.

Police also revealed that a man who frequently exercises along the riverbank told them that he had seen the girls sitting about 30 feet apart in a playground with their heads in their hands and making "praying" noises on the same day that they were later found dead - an image that the witness said has been "haunting" him since.

But so far, investigators have uncovered no credible evidence that Rotana Farea, 23, and Tala Farea, 16, were victims of foul play, Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea told reporters at a news conference Friday afternoon.

The Saudi Arabian Embassy has denied talking to the family about any asylum request.

Tala and Rotana moved to the USA from Saudi Arabia with their mother in 2015, settling in Fairfax, a suburb of Washington D.C., police said. Medical examiners have not decided the cause of death. The family members said Tala had run away to NY without telling the family because she wanted to be with her sister, who family members said was attending college there.

The sisters were last seen in Fairfax on August 24. Police said the sisters' family did not have any contact with the girls while they stayed in the facility. Shea dismissed reports they jumped from the George Washington Bridge because there were no marks on the body that would indicate a fall from that height.

The older sister attended George Mason University but left in the spring.

The sisters were living until the summer in Fairfax, Virginia, although their mother had not seen them since they went missing from home in the city last December.

Shea said the police are continuing to look for, and through, credit-card, phone and other records to try to fill out the timeline of their whereabouts. The sisters did, police said, reference the allegations of abuse when applying.

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