Details of Disappearance
Philip was in her third year of residency in internal medicine at St. Vincent's Hospital (now called the Richmond University Medical Center) on Staten Island, New York in September 2001. She did not have to work on September 10 and decided to relax and go shopping. She left her apartment in Battery Park in lower Manhattan at 5:15 p.m.
Philip was last seen at 7:18 p.m. on September 10; she was captured on a security camera at Century 21 department store. She was carrying two large shopping bags containing about $550 worth of lingerie, three pairs of shoes, and bed linens at the time. She has never been heard from again and there was nothing in her apartment to indicate that she ever made it back there.
A clerk at Century 21 says she saw Philip shopping with another woman whom Philip said was a friend. Philip's companion is described as 5'2 and 115 to 120 pounds with short black hair; she is possibly of East Indian descent. She has never been identified.
Philip's husband, Ronald Lieberman, arrived at their apartment between 11:00 and 11:30 p.m. that day and saw that his wife was not there. He assumed she was spending the night with her brother or her cousin, something she often did when he worked late. Lieberman did not report her disappearance to authorities until the next day. All of her relatives later stated that they had not seen her.
Philip disappeared the day before the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City, when two planes crashed into the World Trade Center and caused the deaths of over two thousand people. Philip's brother told the media that she was last seen running into the World Trade Center towers to offer her assistance after the attack.
The story sounded plausible because Philip is a doctor and resided near the towers, but it was untrue. Her brother admitted he lied about the circumstances surrounding his sister's disappearance to attract attention to her case.
All of Philip's credit cards, except her husband's AmEx card which she used at Century 21, were left behind at her home, as was her passport and other identification. Her family believes any clues there might have been were obliterated in the chaos of September 11.
Lieberman believes she may have spent the night of September 10 elsewhere and was killed in the terrorist attack while walking back to her own apartment, which was only two blocks from the World Trade Center. He theorizes she possibly went into the World Trade Center to offer medical assistance to the wounded.
Police disagreed with Lieberman's theory and suggested Philip had left of her own accord to escape a troubled life. There were allegations, which her family denies, that she had substance abuse problems and had engaged in lesbian affairs.
She was also facing criminal charges; she accused a colleague of grabbing her inappropriately, but authorities did not believe her story and charged her with filing a false complaint after she refused to recant. Philip was in court over the false complaint charge on the morning of the day she disappeared. Lieberman stated their marriage was happy and she had no reason to walk out of her life.
Years after Philip disappeared, Lieberman petitioned to have his wife declared a September 11 victim. No trace of her belongings or her remains were found at the site of the World Trace Center, but many of the known victims' remains were completely obliterated.
A lower court declared Philip legally dead in 2004, but stated there was insufficient evidence that she had died in the September 11 attacks. Lieberman appealed and, in January 2008, the judge who heard his appeal agreed that Philip had probably died in the terrorist attack.
The judge admitted there was no proof of this, but said he believed it was the most likely explanation for Philip's disappearance. Lieberman cannot collect any compensation from the federal September 11 victims' fund for his wife, as the fund closed in 2003. He stated he merely wished to get closure in her case and add her name to the victims' memorial.
Philip was born in the province of Kerala on the coast of southern India, and moved to the United States as a young child. She is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Chicago Medical School. Her loved ones held a memorial service for her in September 2002, a year after her disappearance.