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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(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria.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.  UPDATE:  On January 19th, 2019, Amine contacted me.  He does not remember anything unusual.

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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  • 854 comments
Well this is probably of no use but I thought I would post it. In addition to this, I remember reading somewhere about a serial killer in the hama area who targeted women with long brown hair (um, that is most of syria). Anyway, here is the bit from 2004. http://lonehighlander.blogspot.com/2004_08_01_archive.html

Like most Arab countries (apart from Saudi Arabia following the ‘liberation’ of Iraq) Syria is extremely safe. Where in the West can a woman go out wearing a lot of jewelry and not be bothered? I never felt and outsider, in fact that is the trademark of Arab countries, even in huge, sprawling Cairo or shaky Beirut I felt safe with my gold and diamonds and stuff. I really want to stress this safety part, because upon my arrival in late June, many of my friends warned me that I should drop the jewels and stop going out alone as women have been targeted and knifed lately, a group or one person it was rumoured was knifing them. I was devastated, if the legendary safety of women in one of my favourite part of the world was blown away then all was lost. There were many rumours and hearsay that first week: it was some thugs who had crossed the border from Iraq and they were forming gangs and targeting unveiled women, a fundamentalist group and many other stories. But the problem was that a woman with full hijab was also a victim, so what were we to believe? In fact the only common denominator between the victims was the fact that they were females, it did not matter weather they were blondes or brunettes, veiled or not, young or old. There was a serial killer on the loose and it was one person not a gang and he was using exactly the same method of attack. I did not really bother about the warning and one evening I went to visit some family friends at one of the Palestinian camps (I’ll talk about these in another post). I was telling them how I was disappointed about this safety situation, Damascus is one of the bastions of women safety for me I never felt this safe in Rome for example. My friends showed me that day’s newspaper, which I had failed to read, in which it was reported that the serial killer was apprehended and he was a young disturbed man who after being rejected by his fiancée had carried a grudge about women and was avenging his wounded ego in this way (such crimes are also common in the West right ? I read about them always in the popular dailies). Anyway the attacks stopped and my treasured safety was back, it was a false alarm, no rise of fundamentalism (that had been crushed 2 decades ago) and no Iraqi thugs (although I will talk about the Iraqi border another time also).
It's true that the area isn't as safe as it used to be.
I think that there is a limited amount one can do sitting behind a computer in North America, and it seems it has been mostly done at this point.
Perhaps, though, it might be helpful to go to Syria and visit the mosques in the Hama area (all the mosques if possible), asking the Imams to appeal to their congregations for information. Not just anyone who saw anything, but anyone who heard or suspects anything.
The Imams might not post a picture in their mosques, but there should be enough missing posters around that anyone can see them.
Probably an anonymous post office box and, possibly, an anonymous mobile phone number would be best in this case. Everyone in Syria knows the internet is monitored there.
The appeal would be best made by relatives, like a brother and mother. The concept of a long-time partner to whom one is not married is rather incompehensible to many observant Muslims, although the concept of fiance is not.
I wish you the best.

Anonymous

November 19 2007, 14:54:51 UTC 12 years ago

Hi Matt!
I'm sure you already knew about this and investigated it, but in case you haven't i thought I'd let you know.
I found this article which was published in April 2007 concerning a 17 year old Swede who went missing a few weeks before Nicole. Maybe if you could find out more on what happened to her you could get some leads on Nicole.
http://www.thelocal.se/7070/20070421/
To resolve that junk mail problem you've been having I would suggest signing up for a gmail account(just to start fresh and also because it is a lot superior to hotmail). Then, post the email address on this page in the following format:

mattv99 [at] hotmail [dot] com

This would hopefully prevent the bots that are jumping from site to site from grabbing your email and adding it to their spam lists. And shouldn't stop anyone with half a brain from seeing how to contact you.

Best of luck in your search,
P.
I know you have probably heard this but have you checked to see if she has travlers insurance. If she was injured the doctors would have billed the company.
Hi, Matt....you mentioned in earlier posts-I think October-that MP Dan McTeague(?) was meeting with Syrian reps. Also that some gov't official-possible the new Minister for Foreign affairs- was going to Syria and would inquire about the search. Did you ever hear anything back from them?

Birthday

Anonymous

December 6 2007, 20:00:42 UTC 12 years ago

Happy Birthday Nicole.
-A concerned fellow Canadian.
Happy Birthday, Nicole.
I know this might sound like a silly question but believe me in Syria that'll help beyond words:
Have you tried contacting the Syrian president? I know it's impossible easily reach him; but have you tried pushing in that direction?
Since the Syrian president might be a little busy these days...how about trying to contact his wife instead..I think she probably has some influence by association. She seems like a smart and open minded person..she was raised in England and hence will be able to understand western mentality and where you are coming from. Good luck.
Sorry to hear about your sister,if your out of options maybe think about going to a psychic who also specializes in locating missing persons.Police make use of psychics far more than they let on.

Best Regards
Aaron

benyahia

Anonymous

December 19 2007, 12:34:39 UTC 11 years ago

hello, why are you looking for a. benyahia?? just because of his name??
Amine Benyahia visited Qasr Ibn Wardan on the same day that my sister was supposed to have visited. We're hoping he might be able to tell us whether he saw anything that day, or noticed anything strange, or whether he has any information about Nicole.
أخي مستعدين لمساعدتكم ولكن نريد شخص قريب لها على الأقل في سوريا لمدة إسبوع كي نقوم بالبحث بشكل منظم
أعتقد أنه لديك من يترجم العربية ...و لقد تم نشر صورتها ضمن سوريا وحتى الآن لم نجد شئ لأننا لا نستطيع البحث دون قريب لها ...
Dear: we can help you. but we need someone like her mother Or her brother to Find Her .. After begin 2008

Prayers

Anonymous

December 27 2007, 14:10:00 UTC 11 years ago

I am so sorry to read your story and your Christmas post. My heart breaks for your situation. I know nothing of what I could do but I have asked the Lord to bring you closure one way or another. I can only imagine the emotional struggle you are having and even with good imagination I know I can't fathom the depths of pain you must experience in this.

I would just like to offer a verse of scripture that has comforted me in many a trying moment. John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."

I'm so sorry again... I wish there was something more I could do.

Sincerely,
Joe Orsak. Houston, TX.
Thank you so very, very ,much for your prayers for our Nicole.

From, a family member.

Nicole

Anonymous

January 13 2008, 17:03:41 UTC 11 years ago

Our hearts and prayers are with Nicole. Nothing is too hard for our Lord.

May she return to her mother and loved ones and her fiance. She seems to be a very nice young woman, and deserves a good life.

One question though. Did you check if she crossed out of Syria again to Lebanon or Jordan... Please give it a thought to check the borders. God be with you.
Hi Matt,

I don't think that being Jewish is really a problem in Syria, coz' there is
a small minority of Jewish in Syria, I think that wearing revealing
cloths might be a problem in "Hama" thought, it's filled with
radicals and extremist Muslims...

the era of the late president is OVER man... since 2000, It's not likely that she is in prison..., I don't like the current regime though, but it's better than the former one...

I'm welling to do whatever u think it might help...please don't hesitate to
ask ...

bbye