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(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria.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

Anonymous

May 27 2009, 04:36:31 UTC 10 years ago

I thought I'd follow up again (guy who wrote the post about the film Taken - btw did you see it?).

Do you have the same photo of Nicole that's in her passport? I know you've been posting pictures of her around, but since her passport is missing it's more than likely someone would of seen her photo in her passport. If you go over to Syria again, take the same passport photo with you and show that around too. (Get a copy from the Canadian Passport Office).

On the promotion side, could you make her photo bigger put it on a walking billboard with text and get someone to walk around the places she visited last? Getting the local involved would be great.

Finally, has there been any other news about recent kidnappings in Syria?

Facebook?

Anonymous

July 2 2009, 15:22:45 UTC 10 years ago

I have been following this for 2 years now. Nicole is often in my thoughts, as she is only a few years younger than myself.

Do you have a facebook page? I would highly recommend it. Keep the wall closed for comments....just make the page so others can follow!

Always in my thoughts,

Re: Facebook?

vienneau

10 years ago

vienneau

10 years ago

Hi Matt,

I was at The Cairo Hotel about two weeks before Nicole, and wrote you a few times. I spent three weeks in Syria doing the same kind of thing Nicole was - female, alone, public transport, guidebook, backpack - and had not a single problem.

The comment above about the Qasr Ibn Wardan chapel- I think everyone gets to go inside it (just a way of showing hospitality to tourists making it seems like a big deal).

Took three different tours from the Hotel - rather expensive alone so always buddied up with other travellers.

At no point in time in Syria did I feel any fear. As a single female traveller people really noticed you; in the nicest possible way (men gave you their seats, women watched out for you in restaurants). So whatever happened was really off the radar of an experienced lone-tourist.

Just wanted to let you know that there are still many people around the world reading this, and keeping you and your family in their thoughts. Even my Mother reads from time -to-time ( as she's not very computer literate)!

With best wishes,

Therese

Adnan

Anonymous

July 16 2009, 15:08:12 UTC 10 years ago

I am so sorry
I hope your sister back to her family soon
Hi,
I've been following this post for more than a year and wish you all the best - I really hope that you are able to resolve things soon.

Quick suggestion: if you moved to a blog format (rather than writing everything in one post), followers could subscribe to your blog feed via RSS, and thus keep track of new posts without having to check every few weeks. This would make people more likely to keep track of things in case they can help in any way - without having to remember to check it manually.

Peter
Hi Matt,

I have read your posts from the very beginning of the search...just wanted to let you know that we are still reading and praying.

I had a dream last night that you posted that you had found all the answers...I truly wish that is the case very soon.

Anonymous

August 24 2009, 02:59:12 UTC 10 years ago

Matt,

You and your family have done so much. I am never sure what to say to you but will speak from the heart....I truly believe that Nicole would be so proud of you and your Mom and Gary and the rest of family...your love shines thru even your most frustrating moments...just wanted you to know that we are still listening and caring.

Elaine and Rod Groom
Hi Matt,

I just wanted to offer you a word of hope and encouragement. Many of us are still with you and keeping Nicole and your family in our thoughts and prayers. If you have anything any of us need to do, even now, please let us know.

Jess J.
Florida
Hi i am from Syria and i've been reading your posts for 2 years..i travel a lot to many different cities in Syria (because of my job)..and i really like to help but don't know how or where to start. Maybe you can sum up the missing points/facts you like to know, so that the search would be easier. I know there are a lot of infos in your posts, but they are too long and confusing.

Anyway, i am really impressed of what you have done and that you didn't give up all this time.

Best Wishes.
Mohammad
Damascus - Syria
sorry for posting again. But who was that Swiss man at Qasr ibn wardan on the 31th march? as i checked the list from Riad hotel,i couldn't find any Swiss at al Riad hotel..sorry in advance if you already mentioned this somewhere.

Regards
Mohammad.
Matt, I dont know if you and your family have the energy to push for the Canadian government to do more for families in this type of situation. If you do, then let me know how I can help. I am retired and have time to help. I find it very infuriating that our government is doing so little.

Elaine Groom (retired IOL employee)
Matt, It has been an unbelievable two and a half years for you and yours. The lack of help from our Federal Government and the RCMP has been reprehensible . If the time has come to shout - let us know... We have
kept our mouths shut for too long and if Nicole's return is not to be then lets do something to stop this from happening to next family who is faced with this heartbreak... Our voices are yours for the asking.
Elizabeth Purser
Best wishes for your brother's speedy recovery!!
Matt, I stumbled across your post about your sister on travelblog.org. I'll be keeping you and your family in my prayers. Stay strong, and hopefully you'll be able to find some answers to your questions soon. God Bless.
Has Interpol been able to assist you in your search at all? (forgive me if something was mentioned about this)
Our understanding is that Interpol is more of a clearinghouse for various international investigations and persons/items of interest. We've put Nicole's information into Interpol's files (or the RCMP has) but we've never spoken to anyone "from" Interpol, if such people exist.
I can't even imagine how frustrating it is to have leads, like the guy who started a business with the money from the unidentified woman... and not have the Syrian police/gov't take a good, hard pressing look at it.
I really hope the election takes a back-seat and you are able to get government officials involved without the distraction of campaigning.

I was thinking that about Mariam as well... just the realm of possibilities... and wondering if they've taken a good look at the brother she was with just before. Not that I would think he would do something horrible to her, but perhaps he thought he was helping her by assisting her or hiding that she returned to Russia on her own to see a boyfriend/friend etc.