By Kamakshi Ayyar
January 23, 2019

The office of New York City’s chief medical examiner has revealed what officials believe to have been the cause of death for two Saudi Arabian sisters whose bodies were found along the Hudson River in October 2018: suicide.

A statement from the Chief Medical Examiner’s office stated that Tala Farea, 16, and Rotan Farea, 23, “bound themselves together before descending into the Hudson River,” Fox 5 reports. They were found duct taped to each other on the Hudson River shoreline last year.

It was initially thought that the sisters jumped from the George Washington Bridge but no signs of trauma were found.

An eyewitness told police that he saw the sisters praying in New York City’s Riverside Park on the morning of Oct. 24. Others said the sisters expressed that “they would rather commit suicide than return to Saudi Arabia.”

The sisters are believed to have gone missing in November 2017, after which they were tracked down and placed in a Virginia facility until August 2018. Police were informed about possible abuse by their mother, father and brother. Officials say the sisters were seeking asylum in the U.S., according to The Washington Post.

Write to Kamakshi Ayyar at kamakshi.ayyar@time.com.

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