Last person to see missing New Yorker met with her on Jan. 20

A still from security camera footage at İstanbul Atatürk Airport showing New Yorker Sarai Sierra when she returned from the Netherlands was released by the İstanbul Police Department. Sierra has been missing since Jan. 21. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

February 01, 2013, Friday/ 16:30:00

The Turkish police have recorded the statement of T.K., who is said to be the last person to see missing New Yorker Sarai Sierra in İstanbul.

Sierra, 33, disappeared last week while vacationing in İstanbul. The last time she contacted her family was Jan. 21, the day she was supposed to begin her journey home. She never boarded the plane.

The Turkish National Police, who are using social media to trace Sierra's steps in İstanbul, on Thursday said one of the four Turkish citizens with whom Sierra communicated online went by “Taylan” on Gmail. At that time, the police had identified Taylan, who messaged Sierra three times to meet him on Jan. 21, but said they would not yet release information to the public.

The police on Friday morning provided more information about the identity of Taylan, with whom they met for three hours on Thursday night at an unidentified police station.

T.K., 30, told police in his statement that he met Sierra four months ago on Instagram. As Today's Zaman reported on Thursday, Sierra used the photo-sharing site to chronicle her stay in İstanbul and side trips to Amsterdam and Munich. She used Instagram to communicate with and meet locals such as Ammer Reduron, with whom she stayed in Amsterdam, and T.K., a university graduate living in İstanbul.

According to the police, T.K. and Sierra met twice in person before she went missing. The last time they met was Jan. 20 in Sirkeci. The following day, Sierra sent an email to T.K. about meeting up on the Eminönü side of Galata Bridge, but he never received the message.

Security camera footage shows Sierra walking alone at 12 p.m. on Jan. 21 in the direction of Galata Bridge, a police official investigating her disappearance told Today's Zaman. “T.K. and Sierra did not meet that day,” he said.

Some media outlets have speculated that Sierra, whose family says she came to Turkey to take photos, may have been smuggling drugs in Europe. But the police official who wished to remain anonymous refuted that claim. The police did not find any trace of drugs in the room Sierra rented for 13 days in the backstreets of Beyoglu, and T.K. and Sierra “simply followed each other's photos.”

The police official also told Today's Zaman claims that T.K. has been arrested are false. “After giving us his statement, T.K. left,” he said.

This newspaper continues to investigate Sierra's online steps not only in İstanbul but also in Amsterdam and Munich.

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