Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Western Europe: Turkish Police Not Informed of US Tourist's Disappearance Until Jan. 25, Missing Woman Traveled to Other Countries

As a follow-up to my postings earlier today as well yesterday (January 28), Turkish media has been reporting that police in Istanbul were not informed of US tourist Sarai Sierra, 33, disappearance until January 25, which was four days after she was scheduled to return to New York City.

COMMENT: Indeed, there are many questions in this case that are short on facts: Considering that the Istanbul police were not notified of Ms. Sierra's disappearance until January 25, when was the US Consulate General in Istanbul notified of Ms. Sierra's disappearance? Earlier, on January 25 or on January 28?

One fact that has been established is that the trip to Turkey was the young mother's first trip abroad, which could influence her lack of street skills in being able to safeguard herself, particularly considering that her destination is one of the largest cities in the world, where a lot can go wrong for solo travelers.

Another lingering question is why did she choose to travel alone, considering that the original plan was for her to travel with a friend? 

According to press reports,  Ms. Sierra's husband, Steven, and brother, David Jimenez, arrived in Istanbul late on Monday (January 28). 

Reportedly, police in Istanbul have identified security camera footage that depicts Sierra eating alone in a food court of a shopping mall near the hostel where she was staying and walking around the mall, dressed in jeans, a brown leather jacket and a winter hat, her hands in her pockets. 

Another image depicts Ms. Sierra walking along a main shopping street, wearing earphones. Police did not say when the images were recorded, but according to  Turkey's HURRIYET, a local daily, the images were from January 20, the day before the tourist was scheduled to return to the US.

What cannot be explained is why the missing American made a side trip to Amsterdam from Istanbul on January 15 and then traveled on to Munich on January 16, before returning to Istanbul on January 19. 

A key question for her family is: Had Sierra mentioned these side trips to them during emails and texting communications? Also, had Sierra communicated with her family during these side trips to Germany and The Netherlands?

From a lessons-learned standpoint, Istanbul is not an ideal destination for an American who has never traveled abroad before.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.