2013-02-04

Citizens saddened by death of vacationing photographer

A woman's body is found two weeks after she was reported missing.

By Menekse Tokyay for SES Türkiye in Istanbul -- 04/02/13

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Residents of Istanbul are expressing sadness over the death of a vacationing US citizen whose body was found over the weekend two weeks after she disappeared.

  • Turkish authorities assigned a special unit to solve the disappearance of amateur photographer Sarai Sierra. Her body was found on Saturday (February 2nd.) [Family photo]

    Turkish authorities assigned a special unit to solve the disappearance of amateur photographer Sarai Sierra. Her body was found on Saturday (February 2nd.) [Family photo]

"She was a mother and she left two children behind her. Nobody deserves such an end!" Serra Sonmez, a housewife living in touristic Ortakoy district, told SES Türkiye. "At this point, all Turkish citizens need to take an humanitarian vision towards this issue and authorities should swiftly resolve the case."

The body of Sarai Sierra, 33, was found Saturday near the ruins of some ancient city walls in Sarayburnu district, near historical center of the city. The place is considered as an unsafe one especially during nighttime because it is generally the meeting point of criminal gangs and homeless people although it is a busy traffic route in every hour of the day.

She was reportedly wearing the same clothes seen in surveillance footage from the day she vanished, and was still wearing earrings and a bracelet.

Istanbul Police Chief Huseyin Capkin said that she was not involved in trafficking or espionage. "She was just a tourist," he told reporters on Sunday.

At least nine people have been held for questioning. Sierra died of a head wound, authorities said.

The amateur photographer vanished from Istanbul on January 21st, the day she was to return to the US after a two-week vacation. She had told her family that she planned to photograph the Galata Bridge.

After she was reporting missing, Turkish authorities assigned a special police unit to the case. A Turkish missing persons organisation also distributed flyers, according to media reports.

"I'm so upset by the murder of that photographer," another citizen, Musa Dedeoglu, told SES Türkiye. "I would like to emphasise that all tourists coming to such a cosmopolitan city should be much more careful when visiting places which are not so crowded. Such cases can occur in every metropolitan like Istanbul, because the risk of danger is very high in such neighborhood. I think the best time to explore the city is during the daytime, or with an indigenous person. Otherwise, unfortunately, people are so merciless in every part of the world."

Some people compared the death to that of Pippa Bacca, an Italian artist who was slain in Turkey in 2008 while hitchhiking to Israel during a "Brides on Tour" project for peace. A Turkish man was sentenced to life in prison for her death.

Ersin Karacan, another amateur photographer, told SES Türkiye that even as a Turkish man knowing the city, he doesn't feel himself safe in some districts, and he prefers going there in a crowded group and under the daylight.

"I totally disagree with the claims that Turkey is not a safe country for tourists. You should always be careful in each foreign city you visit. Even as a photographer, my first priority is my own health and safety when I’m abroad, I don't make any adventure for the sake of taking one more photo. The world is getting dangerous each day and we don't have the luxury of remaining naive," he said.

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