Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of two from New York City who went missing while vacationing alone in Istanbul was found dead on Saturday and police detained nine people for questioning in connection with her case, Turkey’s state-run news agency said.
Sarai Sierra was last heard from on Jan. 21, the day she was due to board her flight back home. Her disappearance attracted a lot of interest in Turkey, where such disappearance of foreign tourists are rare and Istanbul police had set up a special unit to find her.
The Anadolu Agency said the body of a woman was discovered Saturday evening near the remnants of ancient city walls.
The agency did not say what caused her death. The private NTV television reported that she was stabbed to death, while a private news agency, Dogan, said she had a wound to the head, suggesting she may have been hit by an object.
Sierra’s family and friends first sounded the alarm last week after she did not arrive on a return flight from Istanbul on January 22.
“The last we heard from my wife was Monday morning on the 21st. She had spoken with her sister and the last thing she said was, ‘I’m coming home tomorrow,’ and she was excited and put a little smiley face at the end of her statement,” said Steven Sierra in an interview with CNN earlier this week.
Steven Sierra spoke to CNN in Istanbul on Wednesday, after he and Sarai Sierra’s brother, David Jimenez, traveled to Turkey to assist in the search.
The worried husband was periodically overwhelmed with emotion throughout the interview.
“You’re hoping that she’s OK wherever she’s at, that she’s not hurting, that she’s not cold, that she’s being fed,” Steven Sierra said, choking back tears.
“Its difficult what’s going through my mind, if our hopes and prayers are not answered. It is difficult when you have two children that look up to you, and you have to do your very best to stay strong regardless of what happens.”
Sarai Sierra flew alone to Istanbul on January 7 after a friend at the last minute canceled plans to accompany her.
“She did a lot of researching about the area, about where she was going to stay, the safest places to go and the time of day to travel,” friend Magalena Rodriguez said.
Millions of foreign tourists visit Turkey every year.
While it is not unusual to hear about foreigners being targeted by pickpockets and bag snatchers, violent crime involving foreign tourists is relatively rare.