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My Sister, Nicole Vienneau, Has Gone Missing in Syria - The Beginning Of My Ascendance Page 14
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(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria.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*)



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.

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 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.


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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Date:May 18th, 2007 06:00 am (UTC)
Where was she before she was in Hama? Is it possible she was befriended by someone at her previous hotel(s) who was going to be in Hama at the same time as she was? Did they make plans to visit the sames places? Did they plan to meet up? Have you checked the hotel's phone records? Did she receive any calls to her room the days leading up to her disapearance? Did she get any emails the few days prior? Is it possible this person rented a car and picked her up? Rental car records?
[User Picture]
Date:May 18th, 2007 11:11 am (UTC)

We are checking for people she may have met prior to her disappearance. The hotel owner did not notice her talking to anyone else, but we have her journal and are following up on some leads.

There is no phone in her room. Backpackers don't tend to use the phone for local contacts - they'd just walk over to the person's room. There are only two hotels for backpackers in Hama and they're right next to each other.

We're asking about rental cars, but most cars are rented in Damascus, so it's a big task. And we need special letters from the RCMP to get into her email account, so we're looking into it.

Date:May 18th, 2007 07:56 am (UTC)

The boyfriend

I thought it was a good idea to keep the boyfriend as a suspect. It might hurt as friends and family to think of such a thing. But, looking at it from an outsider's prospective it seems smart.

I also think he doesn't REALLY consider the boyfriend a suspect. He was just commenting on the "can't trust anyone" nature of pre-meditated murder investigation.
Date:May 18th, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC)

what are the latest news??

i am praying for you to find your sis, thanks for your noble feeling towards my country "syria"

actually we arent accustomed to such things like( disappearing) so i cant but pray and hope best luck to you both...


[User Picture]
Date:May 18th, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC)

Your sister

I am so sorry that you have not yet found her. I was refered to your story by a friend in Canada who's sister is currently back packing in Europe. I will pass along the message to all I know who might help. I know a couple of people who speak Arabic and might be willing to help with the translation but I can not agree completely on their behalf. I will contact them as soon as I am able and let you know what I have found out.
Best Wishes and Prayers to you and yours,
Alexis Grimes
[User Picture]
Date:May 19th, 2007 03:35 am (UTC)
i am praying for you and you sister! Stay strong!
[User Picture]
Date:May 19th, 2007 04:27 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry to learn about your sister's diappearance. Have you had any luck since your last post?

You'll be in my thoughts and prayers.
Date:May 19th, 2007 06:44 pm (UTC)

If she hitchhiked...

If she hitch hiked with someone, they might have driven her off to another location...Perhaps you need to check where the road goes after the archaelogical sites in Hama..you should go farther and check the next locations. Also, you should expand the search to all of Syria. You need to work on flooding the Syrian media (TV, radio newspaper). Vast majority of Syrians do not have access to cable and internet. Most Syrians cannot and do no get Aljazeera (this is pay TV).

Your sister is in my prayers. Good luck.
Date:May 19th, 2007 07:30 pm (UTC)

Re: If she hitchhiked...

most, if not ALL Syrians get Al-Jazeera and it is one of the most watched tv stations... in there, it's not paid TV, it's satellite.. and unless you live in a tent in Syria.. then you do have a satellite.

and although the internet is not widely spread.. a very large percentage of the youngster population has access, and are very aware of the events and rss feeds on the internet.. and believe me.. word of mouth is much more effective in there cos Syrian TV is the least watched TV channel since it's government-controlled... thus the integrity of whatever's on it is not that reliable.

just keep in mind that this is a very eventful time in the syrian media.. the international court for Al Hariri, the presidential elections, the parliment elections, the issue with the imprisonment of the democratic activists..
I am sorry to say this... but they are doing the best they could to maintain their interest in this issue cos they have far more important things to worry about now..

keep in mind.. this is not Canada.. when they have problems in there, their problems is SERIOUS.... a life and death kind of problems.
Date:May 19th, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)

arabic website

Dear Matt, salut tout va bien ? j'espère... I'm Thair HASSAN from Syria Damascus. email: thassan1977@gmail.com I'm trying to contact you for a week now... I want to help in building the arabic website... I have emailed you more than once but no answer... Please check your email... I'll do it for free <
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Dear Matt, salut tout va bien ? j'espère... I'm Thair HASSAN from Syria Damascus. email: thassan1977@gmail.com I'm trying to contact you for a week now... I want to help in building the arabic website... I have emailed you more than once but no answer... Please check your email... I'll do it for free <<I JUST WANT TO HELP MAN!>>
Date:May 19th, 2007 10:17 pm (UTC)

Arabic website

Dear Matt, salut tout va bien ? j'espère...
I'm Thair HASSAN from Syria Damascus.
email: thassan1977@gmail.com

I'm trying to contact you for a week now...
I want to help in building the arabic website...
I have emailed you more than once but no answer...
Please check your email...
I'll do it for free "I JUST WANT TO HELP MAN!"
Date:May 25th, 2007 02:16 am (UTC)

Re: Arabic website

Matt's getting a ridiculous amount of email I am sure. Fret not, he will respond :)
Date:May 20th, 2007 02:15 am (UTC)
Hello Matt, Nicole used to live in my building for 5 years before this trip and I can tell you we are following your search for her with the greatest of concern. People in the building are praying daily for her safe return. Would it be possible to "crack" her e-mail account to see if there is any information regarding a side trip or ? bradhill_2000@yahoo.com
[User Picture]
Date:May 20th, 2007 07:08 am (UTC)
We're working on getting access to her email. Due to privacy concerns, it requires a formal police request from Canadian authorities that was delayed by some bureaucratic confusion.
Date:May 20th, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)


Your sister sounds like an adventurer (eg. drawing maps etc) she could have wandered somewhere.. Do the police in syria have trained sniffer dogs? Start with the hotel.
Date:May 20th, 2007 08:08 pm (UTC)

have you tried dogs?

Your sister sounds like an adventurer (eg. drawing maps of unusual places, etc)she could have wandered somewhere on her own. Have you tried asking the police if they have trained sniffer dogs. Start with the hotel thoroughly -you never know she could still be there!.
Enquire also with the right people about underground brothels. There have been rare but confirmed cases of girls being kidnapped and forced into prostitution.
Date:May 20th, 2007 10:53 pm (UTC)
Hope you find her soon.
Date:May 20th, 2007 11:25 pm (UTC)

One Possibility

This is just a thought but do you know if the authorities have checked out the northeastern part of Syria near the Euphrates River? From what I understand, it's like a big refugee camp with people from all around the area. Because it's very remote and impoverished, also surrounded by desert, if she were taken there I imagine it would be very difficult for her to communicate with anyone.
I wish you the best.
Date:May 23rd, 2007 09:35 am (UTC)

Re: One Possibility

Where'd you get that idea?

First of all, the northeastern part of Syria, al-Hassakeh and Qamishli, are not particularly close to the Euphrates River. Nor are they anything like refugee camps; the people in and around Qamishli are predominantly Kurdish, and Assyrian and Armenian Christians, with more Arabs around al-Hassakeh and further south. They're not refugees. It's not desert, either, but plains with a heavy amount of agriculture. It might be an infrequently visited corner of the country, but it isn't exactly "remote". Also, there is little reason she'd end up in a predominantly Kurdish and Christian region if she went missing in Hama (a predominantly conservative Sunni Arab region).
Date:May 21st, 2007 02:35 am (UTC)

It is only an idea...

I read about your story in The Toronto Star last week and hence discovered your blog. Thank you for the updates, they are very informative. An idea that comes to mind, if possible, is to offer a reward on the posters. I was thinking this approach may be an incentive which may attract more interest to the locals and tourists. Perhaps to "jog" their memories or take an extra look at her photo which might come to some future lead. I pray for your sister's prompt safe return home. Take care.
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