Two Saudi sisters found dead in their beds in Sydney last month lived in reclusive lives over years in Australia: the women had few friends, almost no visitors, and “would only leave the house here and there”, according to a former landlord.
Guardian Australia has confirmed Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24, and Amaal Abdullah Alsehli, 23, were asylum seekers: each had an active claim for asylum ongoing with the Department of Home Affairs and had engaged with settlement services providers in Sydney. The nature of their claim for asylum – their basis for seeking protection – is not known.
But the women do not appear to have been apart of any Saudi dissident networks. They had almost no social media profile, online presence or photographs in the public domain.
Mystery continues to surround the sisters’ deaths, with the former landlord saying they were “cute and friendly” but would “keep to themselves mostly”.
They were found dead in their beds in the south-west Sydney suburb of Canterbury on 7 June.
On Wednesday, more than seven weeks after the discovery of the women’s bodies, police appealed to the public for information, saying they had not been able to determine the cause of the sisters’ deaths.
There were no visible signs of a break-in at their home, Det Insp Claudia Allcroft said, nor any injuries to their bodies. It is believed the sisters had been dead for over a month when they were found.
The sisters had arrived in Australia in 2017 and lived at a property in Fairfield before they moved to their unit in Canterbury.
Their previous landlord spoke to Guardian Australia under condition of anonymity, saying that they were shocked by the women’s deaths, and that nothing suspicious had happened in the two years they knew the sisters.
“I was shocked when I saw their photos, I have no idea how this could have happened. They were very cute and friendly girls, we never had any problems with them,” they said.
“They wouldn’t talk too much, and would stay up at night, but they never made any loud noises; nothing weird ever happened.
“They would keep to themselves mostly, didn’t have any friends, barely had anyone visit, and would only leave here and there,” they added.
Guardian Australia understands that the older sister, Asra, had a boyfriend when they were living in Fairfield, with the landlord saying he was “Iraqi” and had a beard.
Asra had also applied for an apprehended violence order in January 2019 against a man, although that application was withdrawn.
The landlord said the sisters’ mother had visited previously and that she had not liked Australia, leaving after only a brief stay. They had never heard the sisters discuss their father.
The women had been attending Tafe in Fairfield, with the landlord saying they would “only leave for Tafe, shopping or work”. Both sisters worked in traffic control for a construction company.
“They had come to Australia to study,” the landlord said.
Police are continuing to investigate the women’s deaths, and a report will be prepared by the office of the NSW coroner, which will decide whether to hold a public inquiry.
The coroner has been notified of the women’s deaths.
At a press conference earlier in the week, Allcroft had appealed to the public for any information regarding the sisters, conceding police still knew very little about the circumstances leading up to their deaths.
“The girls were 23 and 24 years old and died together in their home. We don’t know the cause of death, and it’s unusual because of their age and the nature of the matter,” she said.
Allcroft had previously confirmed that police were in contact with the family, and that they were cooperating with authorities.
She said there was “nothing to suggest” the family are suspects, or that the women had fled Saudi Arabia.
Police attended the unit in mid-March following a phone call from the building manager, who was concerned after some food was left in the building’s common areas.
They said that at that stage “no issues were raised”.
Asra was registered as a sole trader, having applied for an ABN in 2018, however she did not apply for GST, which is reserved for businesses earning more than $75,000 a year.
Police have not revealed the nature of her business.
Burwood detectives have established Strike Force Woolbird to investigate the women’s deaths. Anyone who has any information is urged to contact Burwood police station on (02) 9745 8499 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism