The distraught family of a missing woman received a harrowing text message claiming she was dead less than two hours after she disappeared.
Rajwinder Kaur, of Queens, New York, left home on Sunday to go and do volunteer work at a homeless centre in Brooklyn at around 8pm and never returned.
Later that evening Kaur's sister, Gurpreet, received a text message from the 26-year-old's phone. It read: 'The girl with this phone is dead, was smiling'.
Mystery: Rajwinder Kaur, of Queens, New York, left her 198th Street, Hollis home on Sunday to go and do volunteer work at a homeless centre in Brooklyn at around 8pm and never returned
At first the family hoped the text was a joke but as the seriousness of the message sank in they began to fear the worst.
'It's too disturbing,' Gurpreet told NBC4, adding to CBS New York: 'I was reading it and it didn’t make sense and I worried, what’s going on?'
Kaur's brother-in-law Kulwinder Bhinder told the station: 'We are very nervous, we are scared. I know Raji. She will never send a message like that.
Harrowing: Not long after Kaur left the home her sister received this text message
'There may be some bad, cracked person she faced that night, and that’s the scary part.
Police said Kaur's phone was tracked to Brooklyn that night where it was then shut off.
No other trace of her has been found. She has not used an ATM or credit card. Police are awaiting a warrant so that they can go through her emails to look for clues.
They fear she may have joined a cult, speculating that the text message could be interpreted to mean 'the old Rajwinder is dead to you, the new Rajwinda is with us'.
Shock: Kaur's sister Gurpreet said at first she hoped the text message was a sick joke, but that her sister would never do such a thing
Disturbing text: Police said Kaur's phone was tracked to Brooklyn that night where it was then shut off
But the family has disregarded these suggestions. They said Kaur became more spiritual following a trip to India last winter but that she would not have joined a religious sect.
Kaur reportedly sold many of her family possessions on eBay shortly before she went missing, but the family said it would be out of character for the former social worker to disappear suddenly.
As they wait for news family members posted flyers around their Hollis, Queens neighbourhood and in Brooklyn in areas near where she worked.
They have taken to Twitter and Facebook to try to get the word out but so far have been left baffled by what has happened to her.
Searching: As they wait for news family members posted flyers around their Queens neighbourhood and in Brooklyn in areas near where she worked
$1,000 reward: Kaur is described as 5-foot-3 and 130 pounds with a thin build and medium complexion
'Nobody has called. We’ve even reached out to our community, the Punjabi community, we put like news in the Indian [TV] channels and all that and we haven’t heard anything from anybody yet,' sister Lucky Kaur told CBS.
'We’re really very, very worried.'
A $1,000 reward is being offered for information about Kaur's whereabouts. She is described as 5-foot-3 and 130 pounds with a thin build and medium complexion.
Investigators said there’s no evidence of foul play and the family is clinging to the hope that she is still alive and will return home.
'I have to believe that,' Gurpreet Kaur said. 'We do.'
Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS or at nypdcrimestoppers.com.
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