Possible suspect for NYC mom missing in Turkey
A view of the street with the hostel, in yellow at the end-left, where Sarai Sierra, a New York City woman, 33, was staying in Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. / AP Photo
ANKARA, Turkey Turkish police on Wednesday were trying to trace a contact who apparently corresponded with a New York City woman through social networking sites before she went missing, an official said.
Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of two from Staten Island, N.Y., has been missing since Jan. 21 when she was supposed to return home from a solo vacation in Istanbul. Police there have set up a special unit to find her.
A senior police official told The Associated Press that Sierra had exchanged messages with a person before she disappeared and police were now trying to trace the man or woman he described as a possible suspect in her disappearance.
The official said Sierra "presumably met" the person after she arrived in Istanbul. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules that bar civil servants from speaking to journalists without prior authorization.
The official, however, denied several Turkish media reports - that police were searching for an unknown man caught following Sierra on security camera footage; that Sierra had spent some US$12,000 during her stay in Istanbul; and that a narcotics team had searched her hostel room on suspicion that she might be a drug courier. "It's all made-up," he said.
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Sierra arrived in Istanbul on Jan. 7 and had been in regular contact with friends and family back in the United States. Before she went missing, Sierra told family members that she planned to take some photographs at Galata Bridge, a well-known tourist destination about 2 kilometers away from her hostel. She was supposed to begin traveling home on Jan. 21, but never checked into her flight back to New York.
Police have said Sierra made an excursion to Amsterdam, Netherlands, from Istanbul on Jan. 15 and travelled on to Munich, Germany, on Jan. 16 before returning to Istanbul on Jan. 19, WCBS in New York reports. Police were trying to determine the reason for her visit to the European cities.
Her husband, Steven, and brother, David Jimenez, travelled to Istanbul to help in the search and were interviewed by the Istanbul police Tuesday. The two left the police headquarters after some seven hours and were seen carrying a suitcase, which the state-run Anadolu Agency said belonged to Sierra.
Sierra's belongings, including her passport, were found in her hostel room.
Jimenez did not immediately respond to questions sent by email or to an interview request.
Police have released CCTV camera footage showing Sierra alone, eating in the food court of a shopping mall and walking along a main shopping street near her hostel. She is dressed in jeans, a brown leather jacket and a winter hat.
Sierra had planned to go on the trip with a friend but ended up going by herself when the friend couldn't make it. She was looking forward to exploring her hobby of photography, on her first trip outside of the United States, her family said.
Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm is assisting in the case.
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