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The Beginning Of My Ascendance - My Sister, Nicole Vienneau, Has Gone Missing in Syria
April 22nd, 2007
10:59 am

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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(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria.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:May 10th, 2007 06:14 pm (UTC)
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Matt...my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May your search have a positive conclusion and may your sister be found safe and sound.

Bruno Amaro
City of Toronto
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 10th, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC)

good luck

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sorry u don't know me, iam a syrian citizen 22 years old,iam really sorry for ure sister and i wish that u meet her soon,and plz i would like to offer my help if needed, i visited canada 3 times and can't forget the beauty of vancouver..alberta...banff and of course the canadian people.
plz this is my mail
tzigler_85@hotmail.com
good luck in finding her soon.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 10th, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC)

Try to let national TV broadcast the story

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May god be with you. I hope that you will find your sister safe as soon as possible.
Try to contact National TV and let them broadcast this story after main news. Send a letter to Syria News; They have connections to Syrian Television and might be able to help you. Most of people in HammaH area don't have internet connection. TV is better, as everybody watches it.
DON'T WAIT. LET THIS STORY GO TO THE HIGHEST LEVEL IN THE GOVERMENT!!
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 10th, 2007 09:28 pm (UTC)

Syrian in Syria

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One of the best Syrian news websites on the internet had published your sister's disappearance story. That is a very huge step forward on spreading the story in the Syrian media. The website is called Syria News.

Here is a link straight to the story:

http://www.syria-news.com/readnews.php?sy_seq=54200

Good luck
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 10th, 2007 10:01 pm (UTC)

We are sorry about ur sister

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I'm Syrian and live in Homs city it is near Hama where ur sister has lost.
i wrote in my blog about ur sister hope we can do any thing to help u and ur family to know any news about ur sister.

this is the link of the post http://www.mohammad-online.com/mohammad/?p=60

We are all in syria sorry about ur sister and we hope that she will be fine..

Best Regards
Mohammad
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 10th, 2007 10:15 pm (UTC)

I AM A SYRIAN GUY

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THAT'S REALLY STRANGE, IT NEVER HAPPENED IN SYRIA BEFORE, I LIVE IN NIGERIA BUT I'M GOING TO SYRIA SOON, I ALREADY CONTACTED MY FRIENDS THERE , THEY ALL PROMISED TO HELP, TRUST ME, I REALLY FEEL THAT SHE IS STILL ALIVE....

SYRIA IS THE SAFEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD AND WE WILL KEEP IT SO
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 10th, 2007 10:28 pm (UTC)

from syria

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Hello Matthew..sorry to hear that about your sister..hope she is ok .
i hope i can help... i'm not in hama but i'll try to sent this page to all syrian sites that i know..
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 10th, 2007 10:56 pm (UTC)

Check that....hope not anyway....

(Link)
Hi Mathew...I hope you will find her safe....I Just knew about her story from Syria-News... I don't want to scare you but I want you to check this as well; there is another subject in the same web stating that there was a woman body found near Hums and she is in her 30's probably hit by a car around april 4th and they still don't know her identity and also they said also in Hums they has been a body for another woman in her 30's and nobody knew her identity for one and half month now...!!! ....check out these information and hope it has nothing to do with you sister......good luck. Firas
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 10th, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Check that....hope not anyway....

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Correction:

The body was retrieved on May 4th according to the website:

http://www.syria-news.com/viewarchive.php?mypage=22
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 10th, 2007 11:02 pm (UTC)

A body of a 30-something woman was found in Homs

(Link)
http://www.syria-news.com/viewarchive.php?mypage=22

According to the attached website, she was wearing a greenish track suit and appeared to have been in a car accident. She remains unidentified. This is a story from yesterday. Homs is close to Hama.

Good luck in your search for your sister. I hope things work out for the best.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 10th, 2007 11:12 pm (UTC)

Re: A body of a 30-something woman was found in Homs

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As I mentioned in my previous note, there are 2 women bodies found in Hums.....Firas.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 12:18 am (UTC)

Any Help I am Ready

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Hello mike ,
firt of all please be informed that i am praying for your sister since ih ave heard about her dieapearance ,i am syrian living in damascus , i have a lot of contacts in syria , please don;t hesitate to contact me if you need any help in syria my e-mail is mohhmach@yahoo.com
i am ready to provide you with any logistics and contacts you require .
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 01:26 am (UTC)

STOP STOP STOP!

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To all Syrians in Syria
Stop offering personal help and contact information. Matt was clear at the begenning: IF YOU HAVE INFO, PLEASE CONTACT ME.
So please Syrians in syria stop offering him your emails and do something more useful. If you really want to help, do as two Syrians did: go to Hama area and check things out.
Matt:
I know many Syrians now are contacting you offering help. I doubt they will go to Hama area and do something useful. All they want is to help them out coming to Canada, so don't reply to them. Just reply to the real helpful people.

God bless your sister

Syrian in the U.S.A.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 02:09 am (UTC)

Re: STOP STOP STOP!

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To (Syrian in the U.S.A)
Please refrain from generalizing and doubting people's good intentions and prayers. Syrians are known to be very helpful and accommodating, and you suggesting that their interest in this tragedy is solely for a "visa" is not only offensive, insensitive, and totally misconstrued, but also stupid.

Matt, my prayers go out to you and to your sister. She will turn out fine.

Another Syrian in the USA
Re: STOP STOP STOP! - (Anonymous) - Expand
Re: STOP STOP STOP! - (Anonymous) - Expand
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 03:17 am (UTC)
(Link)
You are a really great brother! Your search must not be cheap, especially if you travel to Syria. Is there a way that we can donate money to help? Our prayers are with you and Nicole
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 03:36 am (UTC)

From Toronto again

(Link)
WOW, this is a great idea. will help Matt and his family in their search for nicole, I will donate for sure.

Dear Matt:
I sent you an E-mail few min. ago, and will send you another one within few hours with more contacts regarding newspapers and TV contact there.

hope and prayer for nicole and her family
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 04:31 am (UTC)

Please Listen

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PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT PUT ANY INFORMATIONS YOU ARE NOT SURE ABOUT.

First the person talking about the two dead bodies found near the city of Homes do not match Nicole at all. Could you please be more careful of what you write??
One of them was wearing a dark yellow running suit and the other was pregnant.

So you people don't go throwing things you hear or you read without making sure.

And For the people who this guy who said that some Syrian people inside Syria are helping Matt for a reason to come to Canada I tell you:

We never beg anyone to go to his country man. You know why? Because no one stands on our nick and our head is always raised and if you begged to go to America that does not mean that there are some people who are like you. And let me tell you your response was really stupid. At the end you live in a democratic country so this was just a opinion don't get mad and reply.

Sorry to change the main subject but that guy really pissed me off
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 04:50 pm (UTC)

Re: Please Listen

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I'm the one who wrote about the two found bodies. First if it was my sister who was missing, I will confirm with the authorities about the identities of those bodies and don't rely on some discription on the newspaper...second, what do you mean that one of the bodies was wearing a different suit.!!! thats a naieve comment my friend! simply think if at any point she or anybody else change that suit..
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 07:10 am (UTC)

Google Earth

(Link)
i've just knew about the story from Syria-news.com
and i really feel sorry to hear about that
i thought it might be helpful, the least i could do
Dead Cities in Google Earth: 35°14'19.42"N, 36°54'35.57"E
Beehive houses : 35°14'20.12"N, 36°54'35.54"E


Mohammad
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 07:16 am (UTC)

Just calm down everyone

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Just calm down everyone, this is a tense situation and we can all get a bit emotional when discussing it. Everyone has good intentions insha'allah - those offering to help AND those trying to advise on possible scammers.

Matt, is there any way to have the syrian police do some kind of forensic analysis on Nicoles room just to rule out the possiblity that something could have happened there (maybe another traveller staying there or something). How about search dogs? I know that Turkey has search teams (I think anyway) but I have no idea if Syria would. Can they sniff her clothes and then go around areas she might have been in?
[User Picture]
From:vienneau
Date:May 12th, 2007 02:09 pm (UTC)

Re: Just calm down everyone

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The problem with examining the room is that it's been 40+ days since she stayed there and they've rented it out many times since (and hopefully cleaned it) so there's not likely to be much conclusive evidence. This is one of the reasons we needed to know about her disappearance within days, not weeks.

Apparently Syria does not have search and rescue teams as we understand them. I have a friend who works with Search and Rescue who knows a team willing to fly over there, but we're saving that as a later option due to the many difficulties involved (eg. I believe it's an American Search and Rescue team) and the wide area that would need to be covered. It has also rained since March 31st.
From:kinanl
Date:May 11th, 2007 07:26 am (UTC)

Offering Help

(Link)
Dear Matt:

I am a Canadian-Syrian and I have an oilfield service company in Syria. Consequently, my work is in the rural areas of Syria and I know many people and tribes in that areas. I just learned about the story through Syria News. I would like to offer my help by starting checking around that area with the help of my friends there.

Please let me know if you have any extra leads which might be of good help to us.

Kinan Lababidi
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 07:39 am (UTC)

my heart with you

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dear mathew
i am syrian live is syria , I would like to express my sympathy with you and your family, I wish that she come back home safe and sound.
I know that it is very hard, I feel that she is a member of my family, and I would like to help if I can.
I can tell you that syria is one of the safest countries in the world , and such problems never happened before.
but I would like to ask you if you made sure about the weather in the day she left the hotel , because as I heard that there was heavy rain few weeks ago in the desert.
Husam ibrahim, huard2@gmail.com.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 08:19 am (UTC)

God Bless her

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I hope she is ok, please pray for her all of you... God Bless her and canada...
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 10:41 am (UTC)

all of my family prying for you

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we are all a human been and only the people who don't have heart maybe will hurts her but I think she is protected by the power of god , I am sure that she is fine and hopfuly she will appear very soon, from my side I am going to pry for her. and pry to god to let some good people find her and keep her in safe.


signature

syrian family loves the god .
From:syrian79
Date:May 11th, 2007 10:44 am (UTC)

Hope Nicole is back soon

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We, Syrian people, express our sympathy and support to you, the family and friends of Nicole, and hope she is back home soon. It is unusual at all that such things happen in Syria. Syrian people are concerned and worried about her. I am very sure that Syrian police and Syrian people will spare no effort to help. We pray and look forward to hearing good news about her.
I myself have spread her story among all my contacts in Syria and asked them to spread it out so maybe somebody can help.
Best regards,
Syrian


From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 11:03 am (UTC)

Can i help ?

(Link)
I hope that you fined your sister safe I am currently not in Syria but if any think I can help with jus mail me
Syrian
douh_ak@hotmail.co.uk
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 11:15 am (UTC)

Hope u will find her soon

(Link)
I am palestinian studied my univ in syria and have a lot of friends there , i sent the link to them all in arabic and english and asked them to forward it to everyone, hope this will help ,,

I will pray to GOD to protect her and to get back soon to you ,,
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 12:06 pm (UTC)

syrian -canadian

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hello,
I am syrian canadian ,nowadays living in damascus.I would be pleased to help you in any way you find it useful to find your sister.
I pray to ALLAH (mighty God) that she will return home safe .
E.MAIL : amaryas@gmail.com
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 12:17 pm (UTC)

hi

(Link)
i wish that you find your sister in good health
i suggest that you contact the secret srevice in syria they know every thing and aafter one day you will find your sister for sure
god protect her
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 02:13 pm (UTC)

ALL SYRIAN PEOPLE WITH YOU

(Link)
ALL SYRIAN PEOPLE WITH YOU
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