NEW YORK (AP) – A doctor whose disappearance just before Sept. 11, 2001, led her family on a painstaking search for answers was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, a court ruled Thursday.

The state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division rejected a previous ruling that said there was no proof Dr. Sneha Anne Philip, last seen in a department store across the street from the Trade Center on Sept. 10, 2001, was at ground zero during the attack.

“The evidence shows it to be highly probable that she died that morning and at that site, whereas only the rankest speculation leads to any other conclusion,” the court wrote.

The ruling could clear the way for Philip’s name to be added to the official Sept. 11 death toll, although the victims’ list is overseen by the city’s chief medical examiner. Spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said the examiner’s office would need to review the ruling before a decision could be made.

The decision is the latest episode in a long-running mystery that began the night before the terrorist attacks, when Philip was photographed by a security camera at the Century 21 store carrying two shopping bags.

Her family and friends never saw her again; she left her passport and identification behind, never used her credit cards and left many personal items at home, the court said.

“I am 100 percent sure she perished in the World Trade Center,” her father, Philip K. Philip, said Thursday. “We believe that she was there.”

Philip told her mother days before the attack that she had planned to visit the Windows on the World restaurant atop the Trade Center’s north tower at some point. Her family also said that the Trade Center could have been on her route home and that Philip, a resident at St. Vincent’s Hospital, might have stopped to help wounded people before the towers collapsed.

The court said that no evidence was ever found that Philip had run away or had been killed elsewhere in New York.

Philip’s husband, Dr. Ronald Lieberman, petitioned successfully to have her declared dead in 2004. But his attempt to have her declared dead in the terrorist attack was denied in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court in 2006.

That decision relied in part on a court-appointed guardian’s report that Philip put her life at risk by “drug and alcohol abuse,” or spent nights with strangers she met in bars. The court said Thursday there was no evidence to support that report’s conclusions.

Lieberman’s lawyer, Marc Bogatin, said that Philip did not come home the night of Sept. 10, but that she sometimes stayed overnight with friends and usually got home to their apartment in the Battery Park City neighborhood between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.

According to Thursday’s ruling, Lieberman had said he was upset when Philip didn’t tell him where she was spending her nights, calling it a “point in our relationship that we were trying to work out.”

Philip’s remains have not been found, but the remains of more than 1,100 victims on the victims’ list have not been identified. Philip was one of the last three names to removed, in 2004, from the death toll, which once stood at over 9,000.

One name was added in May to the toll; Felicia Dunn-Jones, an attorney who died of lung disease five months after being caught in the twin towers’ dust cloud. The addition brought the total to 2,749.

Philip was born in Kerala, India, and moved to the United States as a young child. She was a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Chicago Medical School.

Philip’s family buried an urn filled with ashes from ground zero in her memory and attended Sept. 11 anniversary ceremonies with victims’ family members for a few years after the 2001 attacks. Her father said the recent recovery of hundreds of long-buried remains from ground zero gave him hope that she would finally be identified.

“I was hoping that something will come up,” he said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.