In the aftermath of the 9/11 atrocity, tens of thousands of lives were affected, with almost 3,000 people dying on the day alone. Then there are the families and acquaintances of the victims.
There are some people that remain unaccounted for, with their whereabouts unknown. But few have attracted as much interest as Sneha Anne Philip, who was believed to have died during the atrocity. However, some evidence suggests that she may actually have died at a different time.
In this article, we look at this mysterious disappearance. At the end of the article, there is a reader’s poll, which gives you the chance to vote on the theory that you believe is accurate.
Sneha Anne Philip hailed from India, and was a well-qualified physician at the time of her disappearance. She lived in Manhattan, New York, and was aged 31.
Sneha had met her future husband Ron Lieberman during her tenure at the Chicago School of Medicine. The duo graduated together, before moving to New York City.
They married in May 2000, and moved to an apartment together. They had been married for just over a year before the tragic disappearance.
On September 10th – the day before the catastrophe – Sneha had a lengthy conversation with her mother, where she mentioned that she had plans to visit the Windows on the World restaurant – which was situated at the top of the doomed North Tower of the World Trade Centre.
After this, Sneha is known to have dropped off some clothing at a dry cleaner, and bought some items at a department store. The CCTV picture above shows the last sighting of her – located in the department store. It is unknown whether or not Sneha returned to her apartment within the next few hours.
On the evening of September 10th, Lieberman made it home to their shared apartment, with Sneha not present. He opted to go to sleep – believing his wife was out for the night – which she often did. Normally, Sneha would return around 7am.
A 4am phone call to Lieberman’s phone was later uncovered by investigators, but when questioned about this, Lieberman couldn’t recall such an occurrence. On the morning of September 11th, Lieberman left for work, with his wife still not in the flat.
Within a few hours, Islamic extremists hijacked four passenger planes, with two flown into the Twin Towers. The towers, which were 110 floors high, both collapsed entirely within two hours.
The terrorist attacks caused the deaths of almost 3,000 people. Hundreds more – including Sneha – were missing, as the United States came to terms with its darkest hour. Sneha was not seen again after 9/11.
Following the attacks, Lieberman returned to the couple’s apartment. It was covered in dust from the building collapses. There had been no human footprints, or any sign that anyone had been in the apartment since the terrorist attack.
Sneha was reported as missing in the evening. Her family raised awareness by posting flyers around the local area. But unfortunately for them, hundreds of similar flyers were being given out by worried families desperately searching for their loved ones.
Despite the family trying to keep media interest in Sneha’s disappearance going, her story appeared to be no different than so many other cases. This hindered the search.
Sneha’s family have staunchly stated their belief that she died as a hero – using her medical training to help victims of the terrorist attack – in the process perishing.
However, this viewpoint wasn’t shared by everyone. Lieberman believed that Sneha had disappeared the day before. The overwhelmed New York Police Department (NYPD) were initially unable to assist.
Lieberman attempted to investigate his wife’s disappearance. He uncovered the details about her expenditure at the department store – and posted flyers in the area of the store. A cashier stated that she remembered Sneha well, calling her a frequent customer.
The cashier suggested that on the day in question, Sneha was accompanied by a younger woman when in the store. But after exhaustively reviewing CCTV footage, there was no sign of any accomplice. No other person has ever come forward, and it is unknown if this second person existed.
Lieberman hired Ken Gallant – a private investigator and former FBI agent. Gallant found some evidence that may have pointed to Sneha returning to the apartment early in the morning of September 11th.
It may even have been just moments after Lieberman had left for work. Security footage showed that a silhouette resembling Sneha was seen in the lobby of the apartment building just three minutes before the first plane hit a tower.
The footage showed a woman entering the building, waiting by the elevator, before leaving a few minutes later. After seeing the footage, Lieberman stated that the dress and hair of the silhouette matched that of how Sneha had looked in the footage of her at the department store.
Further evidence that suggests this figure was Sneha, comes from her family, who suggested that the silhouette exhibited mannerisms that they associated with Sneha. However, the lack of a bag from her shopping trip led to some doubts on whether or not the figure actually was Sneha.
Lieberman and Gallant believed that Sneha had used the 9/11 atrocity as a chance to escape her current life, and to start afresh with a new identity. They pointed to problems in the personal life of Sneha.
A twist in the case came when the NYPD opened up an investigation of Sneha’s disappearance. They believed that Sneha had not been caught up in the 9/11 attacks, and instead that she was either already dead or at a different location at the time of the attacks.
Sneha had recently had her contract at her workplace terminated. This was due to regular lateness and problems related to alcohol abuse. Afterwards, Sneha spent a night in jail. Similarly, she accused an individual of groping her, though the Police charged her with filing a false statement.
Sneha regularly attended lesbian and gay bars. The Police suggested that she would often leave these bars with other women. They believed that Lieberman and Sneha had a confrontation after her release from jail, which resulted in Sneha leaving Lieberman.
The Police believed Sneha and Lieberman had a troubled marriage. Affairs with other women could have infuriated Lieberman. Substance abuse issues, unemployment and legal problems may also have affected her. Despite their suspicions, the Police were unable to ever come to a definitive conclusion on what happened.
However, Sneha’s family have denied the Police’s claims. They have said that Sneha was only unemployed due to her being a whistle-blower in her business. Moreover, they said that she never slept with the women she left the bars with – and was faithful to her husband.
The family, and Lieberman to a degree, concluded that Sneha rushed to help the victims of the atrocity, and at some point over the subsequent hours, passed away.
The body of Sneha was never located. As the months passed, it became clear that Sneha had disappeared, and that there was no trace of her.
Two years after 9/11, there remained no sight, nor fresh information, about Sneha. Lieberman filed a petition to have Sneha declared legally dead. He argued that Sneha’s medical knowledge and location at the time of the attack pointed towards her involvement in aiding victims. The state refused to grant this request however.
In 2006, a judge in a higher court ruled that while Sneha’s death couldn’t be confirmed to be in 2001, she should be given a legal death of September 10th, 2004 – three years after her disappearance. This date was in line with state law.
But Sneha’s family disagreed, and appealed. In 2008, the verdict was overturned, with the new agreement that the most likely outcome was that Sneha did indeed pass away while trying to help others near the site of the attacks.
Therefore, she was given a legal death of 2001. In the years since, sporadic investigations have continued. But there has been no advancements in the case, and it isn’t clear if there ever will be.
Sneha was declared as the 2,751st victim of 9/11, with her name being included on the National September 11 Memorial. She is considered to be a hero by her family.
Lieberman has remained close to the Philip family. He remarried in 2010 with their blessing. The difficulties that Lieberman went through after such a loss would have been profound.
The mastermind of the 9/11 atrocity – Osama bin Laden – was killed by US Military personnel in 2011. Several other extremists involved in the atrocity have either been captured, killed or are awaiting execution.
The Sneha Anne Philip case is certainly confusing, and has many unanswered questions. There are four main theories that have been put forward to potentially explain what happened.
We now analyse these theories and look at the supporting evidence for each:
Theory One: Sneha Anne Philip died during 9/11
The seemingly most likely explanation for what happened is that Sneha died during 9/11. 9/11 had a big impact on New York and its residents. Sneha, as a medical professional, may have sensed it was her duty to help.
We also know through her phone call with her mother that she was due to be in the North Tower on the fateful day. If she was in the tower, she is likely to have died instantly.
If she was in the immediate vicinity, she may have rushed to help others. In the ensuing chaos, second plane crash and mass smoke, Sneha may have died.
Some point to the lack of body as a way of questioning this theory. This could be accounted for by the collapse of the towers, with the bodies of hundreds of others also having never been found.
This is the theory that her family have stuck to. Her husband, Ron Lieberman, has also said that this is a possibility. This does appear to be the most logical theory.
Theory Two: Sneha Anne Philip died before 9/11
The other theory, and one that the Police supported, was that Sneha was already dead, or had disappeared, prior to the events of 9/11.
Many have referred to her “double life” where she allegedly had substance abuse issues, a colourful social life, and marital problems. She was also known to frequent downtrodden areas. This may have resulted in some nefarious activity like her being kidnapped, killed, or any other foul play that would have ended up with her death.
But if we assume that the woman on the videotape in the lobby was indeed Sneha – then this theory becomes unlikely. But if it isn’t, then this theory does become a possibility.
9/11 would have been the perfect excuse for someone to dump a body. It was a time where thousands had either died or gone missing, so it represented an excellent chance for people to cover up crime.
Then there is also the fact that there is no knowledge on where she was on the night of September 10th. There is no confirmation that she was alive in this time. This is one of the most puzzling aspects of this case.
Overall, it is possible that Sneha’s double life resulted in her getting into a dangerous situation which ultimately ended up with her death.
Theory Three: Sneha Anne Philip was murdered by her husband
A rather similar theory to the above – could Ron Lieberman have murdered Sneha? However, this theory has proven controversial.
If Lieberman and Sneha were having marital issues, a terrible event that led to Sneha’s death could have happened. This may have been the case that Sneha was having an affair, causing Lieberman to react in a fit of rage.
Then there is also the 4am call that went to Lieberman’s phone, which he claimed to not have any recollection of. Was there a dark reason behind this call?
However, it should be remembered that Lieberman went to great lengths to try and find his wife – distributing flyers, hiring a private investigator, and visiting the Police. If he had murdered her, then bringing attention to her disappearance would be a strange thing to do.
It appears that Lieberman was a loving husband. It is unlikely judging by the evidence that he had anything to do with her disappearance, but there is always a possibility.
Theory Four: Sneha Anne Philip intentionally disappeared to start a new life
The final theory is that Sneha Anne Philip decided to leave New York and start a new life. She could have used 9/11 as a way of getting away and leaving everything behind.
Sneha had struggled with employment, had substance abuse issues and potentially marital issues. She may have wanted to make a completely new start, which she may have achieved.
However, with 9/11 happening on that day, it would be a huge coincidence. She may have also been recognised by someone in the years after the event, with her face becoming relatively well-known.
Then she also left some belongings at the apartment, including key documents and glasses. Her bank card – the one used at the department store – was missing, but was never used again.
But the main issue is that actually disappearing intentionally is a very difficult thing to be able to do. However, it is a possibility, and there is even a small chance that Sneha remains alive to this day.
Having read the above theories, feel free to vote on the theory that you believe is most accurate in the poll below. You will then be able to see the overall vote and consensus from our readers.
The 9/11 atrocity was one of the darkest moments in the 21st Century. It affected so many people, and decades later, there are still many questions that have been left unanswered.
If Sneha Anne Philip did perish while helping others, she was a true, selfless hero. But there will always be a query on if this was the truth.