The Disappearance of Sneha Philip

Updated: Dec 13, 2018

Indian-American doctor Sneha Philip is officially listed as the 2751st victim of 9/11,  but her final hours are shrouded in mystery.

On the surface, she appeared to have it all, but investigations revealed two sides to Sneha that cast a shadow of doubt over her disappearance.

The months leading up to September 11th had not been happy ones for 31-year-old Sneha.

Her contract had not been renewed for the final year of her medical residency due to repeated lateness and issues with alcohol. She had gained a place at a different hospital, only to be suspended for failing to attend an alcohol counselling program.

In response, Sneha filed a complaint against a colleague for allegedly groping her on a night out. Once the district attorney got involved, he determined that Sneha had made the incident up and she was charged with filing a false report.

Rather than retract her complaint she chose to face the charge, and after a night in jail she was given a court date of September 10th. She was accompanied to court by her husband, fellow doctor Ron Lieberman, where she entered a plea of not guilty.

According to police reports, the pair fought loudly at the courthouse, though Ron has since denied this ever happened.

After the court appearance, Ron set off to work and Sneha headed home, where she had a lengthy chat via instant messenger with her mother that afternoon.

During the conversation, Sneha mentioned wanting to visit the Windows on the World restaurant located on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center, though she did not say when she planned to go.

Sneha was captured on camera leaving her apartment at 5:18 pm, where she went to the dry cleaner's and then to a nearby Manhattan department store.

Just after 6 pm she used Ron's card to purchase lingerie, a dress, tights and some bedding, before visiting the shoe department next door where she bought 3 pairs of shoes. These are the last verified movements Sneha ever made.

When she didn’t return home that night, as she frequently didn’t, her husband Ron thought little of it, but was irritated to find that she had not got in contact.

The next morning at 8:46 am, the course of American history was changed forever when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower. The world watched the events unfolding in horror as the people of New York frantically tried to get hold of their loved ones.

Like thousands of others, Ron called home to find no answer, and slowly made his way home through the city's chaotic streets. When he finally got there after a 6 hour journey, Ron was unable to get into their apartment due to a fault in the electronic doors.

Resigned to a night of sleepless uncertainty, he stopped at a nearby friend's house and spent the night on his couch. Ron returned home the next morning, only to find it empty. The windows left open, dust had settled throughout, the tracks of their 2 kittens bespeckling the floors.

Not wanting Sneha's disappearance to become lost amongst the hundreds of other missing persons reports that day, her brother John spoke to reporters live on TV, falsely claiming that Sneha had been at the World Trade Center, and that he had been speaking to her on the phone as the towers collapsed.

When police determined that Sneha had perished in the attacks, Ron took matters into his own hands. He hired private investigator Ken Gallant, who uncovered a possible sighting of Sneha at their apartment building on the morning of September 11th.

Bleached out due to the angle of the sun, the security camera captures a woman resembling Sneha in the lobby just before the first plane hit, standing for a couple of minutes before turning around and leaving.

After reviewing the evidence that Gallant had gathered, Ron eventually agreed that Sneha must have died after rushing to the site to provide medical help. Police however, had other ideas after discovering Sneha's issues with alcohol, legal troubles and problems in her marriage and work life.

Ron had freely admitted that Sneha often hung out in gay bars and spent nights away from home, and police suspected that she may have intentionally disappeared, or even been murdered, on the day before the attacks. With no evidence that she was alive on September 11th, Sneha was struck from the list of 9/11 victims in January of 2004.

Ron, along with various members of Sneha's family, vehemently opposed the claims made against her. Four years later they successfully appealed the ruling, and her name was added to the National 9/11 Memorial on Panel S-66 at the South Pool.

Like over 1000 other victims that day, no physical remains of Sneha have ever been found.