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The Beginning Of My Ascendance - My Sister, Nicole Vienneau, Has Gone Missing in Syria
April 22nd, 2007
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My Sister, Nicole Vienneau, Has Gone Missing in Syria

(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria. Should the situation change or any breakthroughs be achieved, I will post it here*)

Nicole

Summary        

My sister, Jacqueline "Nicole" Vienneau, a Canadian tourist, disappeared in Syria on Saturday, March 31st, 2007 at the age of 32. She was in her fifth month of a six-month solo adventure through West Africa and the Middle East. She was last seen by the desk clerk at 8:30 in the morning as she left the Cairo Hotel in Hama, two hours north of Damascus.

Nicole

She definitely intended to return to the hotel as her backpack was left in her room along with the memory cards from her camera, full of photos. She also left her journals that include an entry made the night before she disappeared. Canadian police retrieved her Hotmail account email records indicating she attempted to login around 8:30 Friday night but was unable to (Syrian Internet connections are not reliable). Her last completed emails were sent Thursday night.

Nicole's guidebook was also left in her room. In the back of her Lonely Planet "Middle East" guidebook she wrote directions to a number of places in Syria that we believe she copied from the Cairo Hotel's copy of the Lonely Planet "Syria" guidebook. Nicole spoke with some guests about these locations earlier in the week and the hotel clerk indicated that on the morning she disappeared, she asked for directions to the "Beehive Houses", a local sightseeing destination, as well as Qasr Ibn Wardan (a nearby castle).

Nicole

No one at these locations recalls seeing Nicole (and they are not heavily visited) and the Qasr Ibn Wardan logbook has a record of only one visitor, Amin Ben Yahia, a person of interest to us (b. 1984, Algerian/Swiss nationality, father is Abbas, mother is Monica) in hopes that he remembers something unusual about that day.

Nicole preferred taking local transit, but none of the minibus drivers or locals remembers seeing her. As a foreigner, Nicole stood out in all of Syria, but particularly in Hama where the majority of women in Hama dress in robes and cover their hair. The streets from the hotel to the minibus pick-up are main streets with lots of people, even at 8:30 in the morning.

Nicole

In May 2007, I flew to Syria with Nicole's fiancé Gary to re-trace her steps and meet with police and local officials. Gary spent an additional two months criss-crossing Syria searching for clues. My mother joined Gary in Syria in July 2007 and met with the Grand Mufti as well as the Minister of the Interior. She also made a personal plea on Syrian television and we put ads in the newspapers and local flyers. Gary and my mother returned to Syria in April 2008 to raise awareness and follow up on leads with officials and the police.

My mother returned to Syria with Gary for a third visit in March 2009 and we continue to work with Syrian government and police officials on the investigation.

There is up to 2,250,000 Syrian pounds ($45,000) in reward money for information leading us to Nicole.

We are currently looking for other guests at the Cairo Hotel in case they spoke with Nicole. A list is at the bottom of this page.

Nicole

For pictures of Nicole and what she was wearing when she disappeared, as well as relevant personal information and summaries of the search so far, please visit:

http://www.findnicolevienneau.com/

From the "official" website, you can also submit anonymous tips, view the picture gallery and download posters and Nicole's notes. Arabic versions of most pages are also available.


You can always email me directly and anonymously at mattv99@hotmail.com

All comments and emails, public and private, are read immediately, but unfortunately I cannot respond to everyone. Feel free to respond in any language that you're comfortable with, though all of my responses will likely be in English.

Nicole

March 31st, 2012 (Afternoon):

Today marks five years since Nicole disappeared from the Cairo Hotel or in the vicinity in Hama. Despite five years of searching, we really have no new clues as to what has happened to her, though we strongly suspect one of the hotel staff was involved.

Syria today is very different from Syria of five years ago. There are certainly no tourists in Hama anymore, and there probably won't be any going there in the immediate future either.

Hollywood tells us that stories always have an ending, but unfortunately that's just not true. In those first few weeks we were so confident we'd figure out what happened. And then as each lead dried up the worry in the back of our minds increased, "what if we never find her?". That has turned out to be the case and we may end up being one of those families still searching 20 or 30 years later. You can never really give up.

An old friend of Nicole's has been putting huge amounts of effort into finding her. He's been posting on Twitter and updating a blog with details. You can read some updates here, here, and here.

Other people continue to offer suggestions and take action. It is very difficult to keep up hope after so much time has passed. All we need is one person who knows or suspects what happens to come to us, but they'll probably be in Syria and unlikely to have access to us anymore. Hopefully one day.

March 6th, 2012 (Afternoon):

Canada has withdrawn all diplomats and government staff from Syria. All Canadians have been urged to leave Syria. As per the official Government of Canada Travel Report:

"Civil unrest and demonstrations have been occurring in many Syrian cities since March 2011. There has been extensive use of force by the security forces and military in suppressing demonstrations across the country. Many casualties and fatalities have been reported and protests and violent repression are likely to continue. Security operations have involved the complete lock-down of entire towns for periods varying from a few days to a few weeks. This may take place with little warning."

Needless to say, our hopes of getting any information about what happened to Nicole have diminished greatly in the short term.

February 11th, 2012 (Morning):

Syria continues to be in the news as world opinion is slowly being swayed by the stories of what is happening. Once again, no progress on our search as we approach nearly five years since Nicole went missing. To think that at first I thought this could be resolved in five days or at worse, five weeks!

January 7th, 2012 (Afternoon):

Another month of chaos in Syria. In early 2011, the violence in Syria wasn't making the international news very frequently, but that has certainly changed. It is not surprising that we have heard nothing from Syrian officials, Canadian embassy officials, or our own contacts within Syria. This makes it difficult to move forward in the search.

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Current Mood: worriedworried
Current Music: Gerard McMann - "Cry Little Sister"
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 31st, 2007 02:45 am (UTC)

Translation of Article of dead body found

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Title: A naked dead girl body found in a suitcase on Damascus-Homs autostrad

A passerby citizen from the Nabk area has found a "large black suitcase" on Damascus-Homs autostrad thrown on the side of the main road and the surprise was when he opened it he found the body of a naked woman curled up inside.

A mysterious crime

Medical sources said the murdered is nearly 25 years old, dark skinned and with black hair with average height and body. The body has been transferred to a fridge in the Qalmoon hospital in the Nabk and a forensic doctor and a judge inspected it. It is probable that she died by strangulation. There are no signs of a struggle or violance on the rest of her body other than some spots resembling ink stains on her breast.

A search for the family of the girl to hand her over for burial

The police in the Nabk area is trying to determine the identity of the murdered girl and has asked for a list of names and descriptions of missing women in the country. This is to determine her name and city and residence and those surrounding her and to hand her over to her family for proper burial. Investigations have been ongoing since Thursday to uncover the secrets and the details for this mysterious crime.

End.

Matt,

This is very disturbing. A similar crime has happened a few months ago. It seems like a serial killer or something. There are over a million refugees nowadays in Syria. From the description of the victim, it seems this is happening in their communities.
Good luck to you and your family.
From:chesterama
Date:July 31st, 2007 05:25 am (UTC)

American guests

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Hi....you mention in today's post that the American Embassy has contacted their countrymen who were on the guest lists, but won't provide the names to you. Could they not ask the individuals to get in touch with you directly? That way, if they're that worried about privacy, the individual has made the choice to come forward, and the "government" hasn't released the info.
[User Picture]
From:vienneau
Date:July 31st, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC)

Re: American guests

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We were hoping the US government would do that, but it's un-clear if this has actually happened. Quite frankly, it's un-clear that anyone was actually contacted - communications from the US Embassy to the Canadian Embassy to Ottawa to us are often tricky.

I'm going to follow up with the Foreign Affairs folks and make sure that our info is being passed along to these guests the Americans have supposedly contacted. We'll see what they say.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 31st, 2007 07:24 am (UTC)

thoughts and prayers for your family

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I too check your blog every day hoping that this will be the day that great news will be posted. I can't imagine your worry and pain, I am so sorry and I say a little prayer every day for you, your Mum, Gary and Nicole.

Matthew, Nicole is very very blessed to have a brother like you.

Rachel
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 31st, 2007 01:16 pm (UTC)

serial killer

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I am sorry to post this but your article about the long hair girl reminded me. I am travelling in Egypt right now but before I left the states I was searching articles about Syria trying to see how I could help. I found a couple mentions on some blogs about a serial killer that had been in either the homs or hama area (I forget). He seemed to target long haired girls (or maybe he was a serial rapist). Sorry for being vague. I found it in the blogs and is in my favs list at home as I meant to send it to you but I am overseas now. One thing is that I seem to recall that the stories were like from 2002, not recent.
[User Picture]
From:vienneau
Date:July 31st, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)

Re: serial killer

(Link)

I did some quick research. This link:

http://lonehighlander.blogspot.com/2004_08_01_archive.html

speaks of a serial killer who was apprehended. Hopefully he has not subsequently been released.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 31st, 2007 05:53 pm (UTC)

From azwar@yorku.ca

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I just got forwarded to your blog from http://www.alarabiyah.net news website... I am a Canadian living in Toronto and originally from IRAQ...

I donno if I can help, but I read the story about your sister and all I can do is hope that she will come out and that soon you will know information about her.

Hopefully the Canadian Government can do something about it and Contact the Syrian/Egyptian Authorities to speed up the investigation process and come up with information of where abouts she is....

All the best, and Good Luck...
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 31st, 2007 06:08 pm (UTC)

Re: From azwar@yorku.ca

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The Article in Al Arabia website:
http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2007/07/31/37328.html

Nothing new in this article, but it is important since it is very famous website.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 31st, 2007 06:26 pm (UTC)

Syrian Guy

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I really hope u find Nicole as soon as possible.. and i really have the hope that she still somewhere around..and I know that most of the people who read or hera about Nicole they have the hope about finiding her.
keep on faith.. and god will help all of us to find Nicole.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 31st, 2007 07:39 pm (UTC)

a Q

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Did u try to advertise in syrian Television ,posting pic for her on street ,advertise in local news ppr? if u need help in translating to arabic feel free to email me amed458@yahoo.com
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 31st, 2007 09:31 pm (UTC)

A half assed pep talk

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Matt I'm sorry to see that your hope has taken such a beating. Yours is a difficult lesson to learn, whether it has cosmic meaning, or no meaning at all. There aren't too many people that you can turn to in this dire situation. I haven't recalled seeing a support group for an experience like yours, or any of your sister's family.

I'm sorry that the Syrian police are so difficult to deal with. I personally would have pulled a Rambo by now - of course that would have accomplished nothing - not that it seems to make any difference.

I am one of those people that has nothing to offer, but wants to tell you that I feel impotent and useless in the face of your situation. I think about Nicole everyday. Your experience has affected my life and it's affected it for the better. I appreciate things I never thought to appreciate before. Your vigilance and persistence is inspirational. Please don't give up hope. Don't forget that she is the kind of girl that would go to Syria in the first place. She has her own say in all of this. She may be coping and dealing right now, just unable to get out of the situation she's in. Anything is possible. Whether you believe in God or the sheer randomness of life... ANYTHING is possible. That's just the way life is.

Don't give up! There are so many of us here with you.




From:salesboom
Date:August 1st, 2007 12:26 am (UTC)

God Be with Her

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Hope she is found.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 1st, 2007 04:44 am (UTC)

Family name Casianinco suggestions

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Hi Matt & Family,

I wanted to offer a public possibility for the Casianinco name of the Russian couple/family one the post March 28th Riad guest list.

The spelling provided of Casianinco is more Latin, but I recently came across another few spellings which may be worth searching for as well, as they are much more Russian in spelling.

Possibilities:

Kasyanenko
Kassianenko
Kasianenko

Also, I'm not much for being able to speak Russian myself, but widening possibilites could help leads increase. Could Maria also be "Marja" and Andre possibly be "Andrej"?

Thanks again,
Jess
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 1st, 2007 04:55 am (UTC)

Re: Family name Casianinco suggestions

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Using "Andrei" in the search seems to return a fair few results, for those of you who are looking.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 1st, 2007 06:08 am (UTC)

Advise >> Mthaa

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You have to get help from "Meetha" , She lives in "Dara'A" in "Kherbt ghazala" .... She is Professional clairvoyant.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 1st, 2007 07:28 am (UTC)

!!!!!

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i'm sorry for your sister, but what took her to that savages place called SYRIA!!!!!, i hope you'll find her there alright i wish that god be her savior so yours, i'm really sorry
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 1st, 2007 12:11 pm (UTC)

Re: !!!!!

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Many more women go missing in Canada and the US.
Re: !!!!! - (Anonymous) - Expand
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 1st, 2007 07:46 am (UTC)

Be Carefull

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i guess this is a tragedy to miss someone especially in Syria, unqualified personnel from Syrian police and Intel could make it more harder to be spotted , for my experiences in Syria, i highly recommend you to higher a private investigator those guys have a good sight in such cases, otherwise Syrians will ask for money and money and money and they are good in lying beware of that now they are focusing to the prize and never to your sister, god help her to survive this misery.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 2nd, 2007 07:17 am (UTC)

Arabic charecters

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Hi Matt,
Try the following
After you open an arabic email
Go to "View" in your internet explorer then choose "encoding"
from that window you have to choose "More" then you will find "Arabic (windows)" in that menu.
Once you choose it the arabic charecters will be displayed but you might need to do that for every e-mail.
wish for you a good luck

Majed
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 9th, 2007 04:38 am (UTC)

Hang in there Matt

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Hey Matt, your quest for Nicole is never far from my mind, and I do check the blog every few days for updates. Although the tips and emails are thinning, rest assured that there are a lot of people who are thinking of you every step of the way. Glad to hear you got into the woods and away from the internet to feed your spirit.

Take care
Roberta
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 11th, 2007 04:20 am (UTC)

Do not give up Matt

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Matt,

You need to know that both myself and my husband check your blog everyday. We know both Nicole and Gary. We are so proud of you! You must not give up searching. From what I can tell, your spirt will not let you, you feel guilty when you don't post a message and it's ok not to post every day, we understand you have a life to live, Nicole would not want you to stop looking for her nor would she want to stop living your life either, it's gotta be hard trying to find that balance. It makes me angry that we stopped hearing about her disapearance in the Canadian press, isn't there a way to make Canada roar? Seems to me that the Canadians who went to China to protest got more press coverage than her. A Canadian is missing in Syria for pete's sake, I don't know who to yell at about that, I just want her to come home! Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with you.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 14th, 2007 05:20 pm (UTC)

Article on Kidnappings/sex trade

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Hi,

Here is an article on the sex trade and kidnappings brought about because of the Iraq war. I got it from www.islam.org

http://www.islamicity.com/m/news_frame.asp?Frame=1&referenceID=33302

Also, to find the people that you want to talk to, there are online services that can show a detailed report of a persons history. They seem to be not very expensive. I think you can find credit information etc.

I have thought it was odd that she wasn't seen past the person at the Cairo Hotel. No one saw her outside it from what I gather. Could one of them have sold her to a sex trade gang?

I hate having to post these questions but we can't avoid them in the effort to find Nicole. Don't give up hope. I am so sorry for what you, your family and nicole have endured.

From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 14th, 2007 05:28 pm (UTC)

Matt, contact NGOs that deal with sex trade workers (escaped or still working)

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Matt,

Have people start contacting NGOs that deal with women who have escaped from the sex trade (or are still working in it). Have her picture passed around and see if anyone recognizes her from where they were working. Other women's orgs. refugee orgs. hospitals that these women might go to...etc.



[User Picture]
From:monkey
Date:August 16th, 2007 03:02 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Everyone at Electric Mail still worries and hopes for the best.

http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2007/08/16/vienneauarrests.html

hopefully their arrest will have new information that may help.

From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 16th, 2007 03:32 pm (UTC)

Global TV story on arrests

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Here's a video of the story of the arrests as it ran on Global TV. The beginning is cut off, but it began, "There may be a break in the story of..." - but doesn't make it clear whether this is a hoax or a real kidnapping lead:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPt_IpSQSag

This is the story on Global's website
http://www.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=11413850-2c2c-4612-bfac-379824a4ce83

Roberta
[User Picture]
From:saforrest
Date:August 16th, 2007 03:48 pm (UTC)

character encodings

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If you should ever encounter another problem with garbled/unreadable Arabic text in emails, I might be able to help retrieve the original text; I know a thing or two about character encodings.

Best of luck with your search.
[User Picture]
From:nicholelynn
Date:August 17th, 2007 06:00 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Sorry to hear about the false lead. I just heard about it on the news. If nothing else, perhaps this will bring up more publicity/media coverage on her.

You are very brave and determined. Never give up hope.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 19th, 2007 03:54 pm (UTC)

syrain king

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Dear Broo
I hope you find her so soon ,and I hope she is fine and well
God help you and your pairantes to gaiud you to find her.
I will pray for her to be well...
Esaam ..
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 22nd, 2007 12:24 am (UTC)

Sorry

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Sorry for what happened to Nicol
I heared that they found she's body last week in Salamia city ' near Hama
Sorry for that ......

consolations
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 22nd, 2007 12:25 am (UTC)

Sorry

(Link)
Sorry for what happened to Nicol
I heared that they found she's body last week in Salamia city ' near Hama
Sorry for that ......

consolations
[User Picture]
From:vienneau
Date:August 22nd, 2007 01:22 am (UTC)

Re: Sorry

(Link)

Do you have any more information about this that I can follow up on?
Re: Sorry - (Anonymous) - Expand
Re: Sorry - (Anonymous) - Expand
Re: Sorry - (Anonymous) - Expand
Re: Sorry - (Anonymous) - Expand
Re: Sorry - (Anonymous) - Expand
[User Picture]
From:k5memo
Date:August 22nd, 2007 04:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Hi Matt,

I'm glad the rumours are false. But it is curious indeed regarding the detail on 'canadian tourist'. There is definitely a need on follow-up... Maybe this could raise even more awareness, especially in Syria.

I'm still checking this blog on a regular basis, in hope of seeing a good news one day.

K

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