A street in the Tarlabasi neighborhood, a part of the Beyoglu district, where Sarai Sierra stayed, ís marked by old, run-down buildings, broken pavement and strewn trash.(Photo: Victor Kotsev for USA TODAY)
By Victor Kotsev, Special for USA TODAY
ISTANBUL - The New York City woman who vanished in Turkey was spotted
on security cameras walking alone two days before she was due to depart
for home, police said Tuesday.
The camera footage shows Sarai
Sierra eating alone in the food court of a shopping mall near the room
she had rented in a downscale part of Istanbul, police told Zaman newspaper. She was dressed in jeans, a brown leather jacket and a winter hat, with her hands in her pockets.
Another image shows her walking along a main shopping street, wearing earphones.
was on Jan. 20, two days before Sierra, 33, was due to fly back to
Newark and rejoin her husband and two young children at their Staten
Island home. She had traveled to Turkey for what friends described as a
"dream trip" to photograph the city.
Her husband, Steven Sierra,
and brother David Jimenez say Sierra was in contact with the family the
day after the security footage was taken. They say it was her first trip
out of the United States, but that she expressed no uneasiness about
Both men arrived in Istanbul late Monday to help
police in their investigation. The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet quoted
unnamed police sources as saying investigators were not notified about
the disappearance until Jan. 25.
Police are focusing on Sierra's travels and who she was in contact
with during her trip. She had planned out much of her trip over the
Internet, discussing it with contacts on social media sites such as
Sierra took a side trip to Amsterdam, Netherlands, from
Istanbul on Jan. 15. She stayed only one day before arriving in Munich,
Germany, on Jan. 16. She remained there for three days and returned to
Istanbul on Jan. 19.
Steven Sierra told the Staten Island Advance
that his wife had been in contact over the Internet with a Dutch tour
guide she had met in Istanbul. She rented a room from Yigit Yetmez, a
student at the local Bilgi University who said he rented his spare room
out to Sierra after they connected on the Internet, according to Turkish
While the Beyoglu neighborhood in which Sarai Sierra
was staying is an upscale area full of nightlife and historic
landmarks, Komurcu Zeynel Street, where her room is located, is one of
the more dangerous parts of the district. The district is home to
immigrant communities made up of Roma and Africans, and is known for
heroin dealing and prostitution.
"No pictures, no pictures,
goodbye," men from a nearby café shouted at journalists walking by to
photograph the apartment where Sierra stayed on 20 Kömürcü Zeynel St.
Contributing: Peter Carvill in Berlin