Getting Away with Murder
September 11, 2001, is a day Americans will never forget. Over three thousand people were murdered that day in New York City—a tragedy unlike any other we have ever witnessed. While the world mourned, some hid their wicked killings under the mask of the tower attack.
Dr. Sneha Philip
Dr. Sneha Philip, an emergency room doctor living in Battery Park City, New York, disappeared in the early hours of September 11, 2001, long before the first plane hit the North Tower.
She and her husband, Rob Lieberman, also a doctor, had breakfast at a café on September 10. At around 11:30 a.m., he departed for work, and she returned home to do housework. Later that day, surveillance cameras caught her shopping at a store across the street from the World Trade Center, but she never returned home.
After his shift at the hospital ended, Dr. Lieberman arrived home at 11:15 p.m., and his wife wasn’t there. Apparently, it wasn’t unusual for his wife to go out with friends for dinner and drinks and not return home until the next morning.
She disappeared in lower Manhattan the night before the 9/11 tragedy.
What is unfathomable is Dr. Lieberman’s assumption she was at her brother’s or cousin’s house, especially since he never admitted phoning her until after he heard about a plane hitting the towers.
On September 11, at 6:45 a.m., Dr. Lieberman boarded a subway and headed to work. When he heard about the first plane hitting the Twin Towers, he tried to phone his wife, but she didn’t answer. He headed back to his apartment, but the doors were chained, preventing him from entering his apartment building. However, a neighbor told him his wife wasn’t in the building.
Her last communication was with her mother via instant message at 2:30 p.m. on September 10. Security camera video shows her leaving the apartment a few hours later at 5:15 p.m. An employee verified he remembered seeing her go.
Credit card purchases for $500 showed up around 7:15 p.m. at a designer discount department store across from the World Trade Center, where she bought bed linens, lingerie, and three pairs of shoes. She vanished without a trace. In the video, they saw her carrying two large bags of merchandise. No packages were found in the apartment.
Ron distributed missing person flyers around where she was last seen. A shoe clerk reported seeing Sneha with another woman that night. Sneha mentioned the woman as her friend, but she never stepped forward. Because the NYPD was too busy with the 9/11 attacks, Ron hired a private investigator to help track down anyone who saw Sneha after leaving the store.
Several questions remain unanswered: Where did Sneha stay the night of September 10 if she wasn’t with her brother or cousin? Did she leave the department store with this mysterious friend and stay with her? If this is true, why hasn’t the woman come forward?
Theories suggest she met with foul play after she left the store. She walked across the street to the Millennium Hotel Bar and may have died there during the attacks. Friends and family believe finding the mystery woman last seen with Sneha is the key to solving her disappearance.
In June 2002, an episode of Unsolved Mysteries aired her disappearance. Initially, a New York court ruled Sneha’s date of death was September 10. Though listed as a victim of the 9/11 attacks, in 2004, they removed her name from the list of 9/11 missing. The evidence found by the NYPD investigators suggested she was leading a double life. They claim she and Ron were having marital problems, and she may have been having affairs with other women.
Their last encounter was a fight outside a courthouse where she pled not guilty to filing a false complaint against a colleague. The investigators also believe she had an apparent drug and alcohol issue, which led them to believe she had left to start a new life.
In Surrogate’s Court proceedings, the missing woman’s court-appointed guardian, Ellen Winner, raised red flags about Philip’s vanishing and lifestyle. Winner wrote Philip had frequented bars and spent the night with strangers, and her job at Cabrini Medical Center in Gramercy Park was in jeopardy.
Lieberman, who had been married to Philips for only a year, acknowledged he and his wife had an unusual relationship, but there was no evidence his wife’s nights out involved any risky behavior, even though many times she would not arrive home until 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. in the morning.
The Surrogates Court Judge ruled Philips’s death to be September 10, 2004, three years after she was last seen.
Her family refused to believe this. No evidence on her devices showed plans for a new life, and the family disputes police findings.
In 2008, the state Appellate Division overturned the decision of the New York court. A court dismissed the double life claims and rejected the claims she was abusing drugs and alcohol, noting those sources were not credible. They also determined Sneha most likely died helping injured people at the World Trade Center.
She is now listed as a victim of the 9/11 attacks. Knowing she died during the attacks, her husband and family consider the new rule a great comfort for them. They never found her remains. Though entitled to $3 million from a federal Victim’s Compensation Fund, Lieberman’s earlier application was rejected, and the fund is now closed.
Henryk Siwiak, a Polish immigrant, was fatally shot in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., on September 11, 2001, and was the only homicide reported in New York outside of the World Trade Center attacks.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Siwiak’s death was lost in the shuffle. The NYPD was stretched thin and could only offer a feeble response when Siwiak was shot. To this day, no one knows who killed Siwiak. His case remains unsolved, and they popularly remembered him as the last man murdered on 9/11.
Henryk was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1955. He was an inspector for the Polish National Railroad, and he married a scientist named Ewa and had two children.
In 2000, they fired Henryk from his inspector job. With Poland’s economy in shambles and a 15 percent unemployment rate, his ability to find work was near impossible. He moved to NYC for the American Dream and money for his family.
Siwiak struggled with English but could find odd jobs in construction. He lived in Far Rockaway, Queens, with his sister, who had emigrated six years prior.
On September 11, 2001, Siwiak was working at a construction site, and even though he saw the first plane hit the towers, he couldn’t afford to stop working for the day. He crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on foot, then contacted a temp agency. They gave him a cleaning job at a Pathmark grocery store. He was to be there at midnight.
Upon speaking with his wife in Poland, he was advised not to go out that night. He was determined to finish his workday. After reviewing a map with his landlord, he set off for the Pathmark store off Albany Avenue. But the landlord directed him toward Albany Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, three miles from where he wanted to go. This mistake proved fatal for Henryk.
He exited the Fulton Street subway stop at 11:00 p.m., wearing his favorite camouflage jacket. His family believes he posed a threat with his inability to speak English and his accent when he asked someone for directions. That area of Bedford-Stuyvesant was a hotbed of narcotic activity and gang shootings.
Police believe he encountered a group shortly before midnight and was shot once in the chest. He left a trail of blood as he tried to get help by ringing a doorbell. No one opened their doors in fear, and he lay dead on the street, face down, until someone called 911. They suspect a botched robbery is likely what sparked the incident. Detective Harvey from the NYPD assumed he couldn’t understand or communicate with people on the block.
A $10,000 reward is being offered for any information leading to the arrest of Henryk Siwiak’s killer, and Crime Stoppers is offering an additional $2,000. Henryk’s wife is bitter about how her husband’s murder has been handled. She feels no stone would go unturned if they had killed an American in Poland until they found the killer. She is certain they will never bring his killer to justice.
Evil finds its way into people’s hearts, allowing them to perform unspeakable acts. Under the guise of an American tragedy, at least two people lost their lives. There are likely similar cases in other regions.
One woman went missing on 9/11/01, and three years later, they arrested her husband for her murder. He claims it was the perfect backdrop to commit murder, since most police departments were running with skeleton crews.
Though I don’t have the transcripts of Dr. Lieberman’s claim his wife was “most likely trying to help people at the World Trade Center,” there is no definite proof she was there. I understand why the court couldn’t do anything. The challenge is proving her presence, as most missing from the WTC disappeared into dust. They inundated law enforcement agencies with cases, not to mention going through their own grief of friends lost in this tragedy. What a perfect backdrop. This is a classic ‘getting “getting away with murder” murder’ case I’d ever read about.
Both cases involve someone who knows something but has stayed silent for twenty-two years.
The victims and their families will always be in my heart.
Rest in Peace.