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Turkish Police Look For Person In Connection With Missing Staten Island Woman

Sarai Sierra (credit: Handout)

Sarai Sierra (credit: Handout)

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ANKARA, Turkey (CBSNewYork/AP) – Turkish police on Wednesday were trying to trace a person who apparently corresponded with a Staten Island woman through social networking sites before she went missing, an official said.

Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of two, has been missing since Jan. 21 when she was supposed to return home from a solo vacation in Istanbul. Police have set up a special unit to look for her.

A senior police official told The Associated Press Wednesday 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.

Turkey’s private Dogan news agency, citing unnamed sources, said Sierra had exchanged messages through her email account with a person who went by the name of “Taylan” although it was not known if that was a real name or an alias. It claimed the two agreed to meet on Galata Bridge, a tourist destination more than a mile from her hostel.

Dogan said police were scanning through security camera images around the bridge to see if the alleged meeting ever took place. The agency said police had identified the IP address of the device “Taylan” had allegedly used to correspond with Sierra.

Sierra’s husband Steven and brother David Jimenez arrived in Istanbul late Monday and made a deposition to police.

On Tuesday, officials released surveillance video that shows Sierra eating alone in the 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.

Sarai Sierra Surveillance Image (credit: Handout)

Sarai Sierra Surveillance Image (credit: Handout)

Another image shows her walking along a main shopping street, wearing earphones. Police did not say when the images were recorded, but Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper said the images were from Jan. 20.

Before she went missing, Sierra had been in regular contact with her family and friends and told relatives she planned to take photographs at the Galata Bridge.

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. Police were trying to determine the reason for her visit to the European cities.

Sierra’s belongings, including her passport, were found in her hostel room.

The family said Sierra’s children, ages 11 and 9, do not know their mother is missing.

Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm is assisting in the case.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)