Vienneau (vienneau) wrote,

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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(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria.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*)



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.


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).


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.


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.


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:

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

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.


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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Tags: jacqueline nicole vienneau missing syria

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Just read your post and have to say...stop beating yourself. My daughter is an only child. She would be proud to have a brother like you. You have done more than enough and you have a right to stop (or let things slide!). I cannot stress enough how much, those of us on the outside, applaud you and your family. I can only hope that given a similar situation, I would find your strength and perserverence.

Go on as long as you can but please never feel guilty for stopping. You are engaged, will be getting married and perhaps having children. My bet is Nicole would want that for you.

Take care and remember that you are in our prayers and thoughts.

Rod and Elaine Groom
Have you tried getting in touch with the Texas based Equusearch team? While they are American, they might be able to assist in some fashion. There website is

Being American is a significant barrier - there's almost nothing Americans can do in or with Syria from what I understand.

In June 2007 we investigated bringing over a search and rescue team with dogs, and the price was prohibitive with an extremely small chance of success, especially given the unfamiliar terrain, climate and culture. Unfortunately, I don't there's a good way around these barriers.
You could watch that T.V show you talked about by subscribing with a Satellite company. The company will place a small satellite on your balcony and give you a receiver. You will then get the Syrian Space Channel which holds that program. But the program is in Arabic anyways. However it had found lots of missing people and connected them back with their families. It is very successful because it plays on the emotions aspect.
Fellow syrians,

I've added Nicole's pictures and her personal items on
my site "" those pictures are the same of
the site "" I just posted the pictures along
with Matt email and the reward in Arabic so more people can read it...

I hope that this will help ...

People like You "Thassan" are the real treasure of Syria. I'm Syrian living in Canada and I'm proud of your help and I wish I was in Syria to help with anything. I'm also sad because I know that these accidents don't usually happen in Syria the country of culture and safety. Anyhow, this could happen anywhere and thanks for all Syrians within Syria helping to find Nicole. Lets show the world our real metal. God bless you all.

I wish


September 24 2008, 07:52:04 UTC 13 years ago

I just hope from all Syrians that are helping find Nicole within Syria to not ask for anything in return. This is not our habit and tradition. Please no one make use of the situation. Just making sure that is not happening and I know it isn't.
Hi Matt,
I just logged into livejournal for the first time in over a year cause I felt I just needed to tell you that I'm still holding out hope for Nicole. I started reading your blog very soon after her disappearance and I haven't stopped. I don't know her or you or have any real connection to this situation other than stumbling upon it a year and a half ago and being a fellow Canadian. I always read your words and try and fathom what it would be like if one of my siblings went missing. You and your family are extremely strong and I cannot imagine the emotions you have to deal with every day, let alone on your wedding day. I wish your entire family could be there with you.
I know this message my seem like it's pointless or coming out of nowhere but I just wanted you to know that I still hope that your sister will be reunited with your family one day soon and I think that it's beyond incredible how much work your family has done to find her.
Congratulations on your wedding and for being such an amazing brother.


October 1 2008, 16:37:07 UTC 13 years ago

I also have been following your journal. A person couldn't wish for a better brother or fiancee than you and Gary. Nicole was a very lucky girl to have two such compassionate men in her life.
Congratulations on your marriage!
Matt, There are no words to ease the pain of not having your father or sister at you wedding. Please enjoy you day, you know they would both want you to.
first of all i,m sorry for u, i dont know but i just felt when i read the info of ur sister that,s someone from my family missing ,so i really wanna help u find her.
i dont know how but i,m asking u plz if there is group working here in syria i can do some help .
i,m from damas i can help u in my city and i got some friends and i think they love to help 2 .
so ummm i,m really sorry but i can say inshallah u will find her with no harm .
so i couldnt read all the things related about ur sister cuz as u see i,m not that good one in english , idont know i wanna to write millions of words but words cant express about feelings .
inshallah u will find nicole .
our hearts with u .
Congratulations on your wedding!

You, Nicole and your family are in my thoughts and prayers daily.
Just a quick note to let you know that I am one of many who check your entry every Wednesday morning. We are all hoping for the same thing for you and your family, that is closure. You need to be able to rest now and move on. Take care.
Dear Sir/ Madam:

I am a licensed Private Investigator in the state of Florida. I have been a Private Investigator since 2000 and I operate Universal Investigations, a private Investigator Agency. I can speak, read and write Arabic fluently. In, 1996 I have completed law enforcement training in the State of Florida and earned a "Best Physical Performance Award". I have investigated civil and criminal cases as a Private Investigator. I have visited several middle eastern countries in order to accurately and thoroughly understand the Middle Eastern Culture. My email is MJ@22LAW.COM and I can be reached by calling 1-877-999-7715.

Please let me know If you need my help or assistance.

Det. Michael Joseph
Universal Investigation
Agency No. A2000180
4185 W. Lake Mary Blvd # 199
Lake Mary, FL 32746
1-877-999-7715 Office

Just read your post about the donations. I hope some of them are from IOL people. I posted a message on a facebook IOL group so am hoping that some of those folks came through.

Also, please let your Mom know that I am retiring at the end of Nov. We used to talk about my daughter, you and Nicole a lot when we worked together.

You and your family are in our prayers each day. Take care,

Elaine & Rod Groom
Still reading. Just realized my BlackBerry's T9 recognizes "Vienneau" from when I check your Tuesday updates.

Best to you and your family.

Chicago, IL, USA


November 26 2008, 19:04:05 UTC 12 years ago

We are also still reading. Stay strong and keep the faith that you will get an answer.
Thank you Nicole's Mom for your post. Your words brought tears to my eyes and I can't begin to imagine your pain. Like I've shared with Matthew a few times, I don't know Nicole but I think of her and all of you often. Please don't ever think that no one is reading, no one is praying and no one is trying to rattle their brains to think of what stone has been left unturned. There are people thinking, praying and searching for your daughter. I'm one of those people. I know this year has brought hope and a new beginning to your family, with Matthew's marriage, I only hope for all of you that you can continue to have many more such occasions.
God Bless You All.
I too am still reading the Tuesday updates. Everything that can be said, has been said so many times. As a mother I can only imagine your anguish. I hope that soon you will have closure.


December 11 2008, 03:58:30 UTC 12 years ago

I so feel Nicole's mother's pain but since I have not had this or a similar experience, that seems so empty. My family and I read weekly and will continue to pray for your family...we will also contribute what we can to the fund.

Remember many prayers are still being said.

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