The mysterious deaths of two Saudi sisters living in Sydney has taken another strange turn, with police backflipping on initial claims their family had been cooperating with investigators.
Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24, and Amaal Abdullah Alsehli, 23, were found dead inside their Canterbury unit in the city’s south-west on June 7, five years after they fled their homeland and arrived in Australia with $5,000 in savings.
Police believe the two young women, found in separate beds, may have been dead for a month before officers made the grim discovery while conducting a welfare check.
There were no signs of forced entry, no clear sings of injury, and the cause of death remains undetermined.
For weeks, NSW Police assured media the sisters ‘well-connected’ family in the Saudi kingdom were ‘cooperating’ and ‘helping’ with the investigation.
But it has since been alleged that the family blocked detectives from releasing photographs of the women as part of a public appeal to shed light on the baffling case.
Police confirmed to Daily Mail Australia their photos and identities were released in consultation with the coroner – not the sisters’ family – almost two months after their bodies were found.
Pictured: Amaal Abdullah Alsehli, 23. Her body was found on June 7 in a Canterbury apartment
Pictured: Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24. She and her sister were found dead in Sydney’s south-west
Other bizarre inconsistencies have also arisen during the investigation.
Police were unable to explain a delay on the release of toxicology reports which usually takes four to six weeks, despite previously insisting the findings were being ‘fast-tracked’.
‘That is a matter for the coroner,’ police said in response our inquiries.
Until now, investigators always insisted the family were cooperating with investigators and had ‘no reason’ to believe the Alsehli sisters fled their homeland.
Police would not release details about the women’s visa status at Wednesday’s press conference but revealed officers were in touch with the family – who had instructed the consulate to act on their behalf.
Investigators believe the women died in May, around the time they stopped paying rent.
The coroner has not released the bodies of the sisters to their family, although it is understood they could be buried in Sydney.
Police are to yet rule out homicide or suicide as investigations continue.
NSW Police have appeared to have backflipped on initial claims the women’s family have been cooperating with investigation into their deaths. Pictured are police at the unit in June
Their rental agent Jay Hu revealed the women were originally ‘good’ tenants when they first moved in two years ago and had proof of ‘ample’ savings before falling behind on rent earlier this year.
‘They stopped paying rent, so my colleague contacted them … they said the money would be coming soon,’ he told the Daily Telegraph.
‘But it still didn’t come … a few more weeks went by and still not paid.’
The unit has undergone renovations including new carpet and repainting before the property went back on the market for lease last week.
It’s also been revealed the sisters were both seeking protection from the Australian government as more details about their attempts to build a normal life here emerged.
They had an active claim for asylum in progress with the Department of Home Affairs, it has been confirmed.
The reasons they sought protection from the Australian government, detailed in their claim, are not known.
Forensic police scoured the unit (pictured) in the wake of the grisly discovery on June 7 – a month after the women died
Police confirmed the women’s identities were released last week in consultation with the coroner. Pictured are officers at the Canterbury complex investigating the women’s deaths
– May have fled Saudi Arabia as teens.
– Had access to money and drove a BMW.
– Both had Australian business names, but police can’t confirm what they did for work.
– Filed an AVO, and then withdrew it.
– BMW was keyed.
– Three police welfare checks.
– Stopped paying rent.
– Bodies found a month after they died.
– Cause of death unknown.
But claims for asylum often relate to persecution or human rights violations on the basis of religion, sexuality, ethnicity, violence or political opinions, according to Amnesty International.
Both were in touch with settlement providers and were on bridging visas.
Reports published in Middle Eastern newspapers on Friday said the sisters had renounced Islam.
The sisters only left the Canterbury unit to study at TAFE, to go shopping or to work, their former landlord from a property they rented at Fairfield revealed to The Guardian.
The ‘shocked’ landlord claimed their mother visited the sisters in Sydney but didn’t like Australia and left after only a brief visit.
News outlets based in Yemen shed more light on the mysterious situation – reporting that the women fled their homeland with a wad of cash in 2017 due to a tumultuous relationship with their parents.
They were also reported to have renounced Islam and became atheists. One had a boyfriend in Sydney.
Detective Inspector Claudia Allcroft insisted there was ‘nothing to suggest’ their family was involved in their deaths.
The women were not known to be part of any dissident Saudi networks.
The landlord said the sisters, who it reported fled Saudi Arabia in 2017 with $5,000 during a family holiday, both attended TAFE in Wetherill Park.
They also both worked doing traffic control for a Sydney building company.
‘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,’ their landlord told The Guardian.
When they arrived in Sydney, Asra and Amaal made contact with a refugee agency. Pictured: Their Canterbury apartment block, where they were found dead in June
He said the women did not talk much, or stay up late and didn’t make ‘loud noises’.
‘Nothing weird ever happened.’
Asra Alsehli had a boyfriend, an Iraqi man with a beard, the landlord said.
She applied for an apprehended violence order against a 28-year-old man in 2019 but later withdrew the application.
According to Ana Yemenyi and Tomorrow’s Yemen, the sisters were on a summer holiday with their family when they jumped on a plane to Sydney, via Hong Kong.
The sisters then connected with an Australian refugee organisation. It is understood they were on bridging visas in Australia.
Local news outlets said their brother was expected to make a public appeal to encourage any potential killer to come forward, but the family have so far remained silent.
The mysterious deaths have made waves on social media, with many Middle Eastern locals asking why the sisters felt the need to escape the Saudi Kingdom.
One man said the women exposed themselves to danger when they left their homeland: ‘Do not leave Saudi Arabia in search of freedom. You will not find it.’
A black BMW coupe covered in dust was removed from the garage of the apartment block the day after the women’s bodies were found
The Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Sydney has offered its condolences to the family, who are believed to be ‘well connected’.
While the details of the Alsehli sisters’ lives in Saudi Arabia have not yet been pieced together, what is known about their time in Australia begs more questions than answers.
Eight weeks on from the grisly discovery, the case is still plagued with mysteries and inconsistencies.
Both women registered ABNs in 2018 for sole trading to a Wetherill Park address, in Sydney’s west, but police still can’t confirm what they did for work.
They also drove a black BMW coupe which normally costs upwards of $38,000, and lived in a modern, two-bedroom $490-per-week apartment.
The sisters’ car was also keyed in late 2021, but is unknown whether it was a coincidence or whoever damaged their property had malicious intent.
The women regularly went to the local service station for coffee and energy drinks with workers describing them as ‘cheerful’ – but they noted the pair would only respond to questions, never starting a conversation.
There were also three welfare checks carried out by police in the months before the girls were finally discovered in separate beds of their first-floor unit as mail piled up outside their door.
At last week’s press conference, Detective Allcroft confirmed police know very little about the women and renewed an appeal for public information – anyone who saw the sisters in their final days has been urged to come forward.
‘We hope that someone may be able to assist our investigators,’ Detective Allcroft said.
‘Either through sightings, or those who knew the sisters and may have some information on their movements prior to their death.’
SYDNEY SAUDI ‘MURDER’ MYSTERY TIMELINE
2017: Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24, and Amaal Abdullah Alsehli, 23, are believed to have fled Saudi Arabia during a family holiday – with $5000.
They flew to Sydney, via Hong Kong, and made contact with a refugee centre.
2019: Asra took an AVO out against a man, but it was later dismissed.
2020: They frequently visited a service station around their flat, with locals describing them as ‘friendly’.
2022: Police conducted two welfare checks early in the year.
In one of the checks, the pair were described as ‘timid’ and refused to let anyone enter the apartment.
They eventually allowed officers to enter, but stayed huddled together in the far corner of the unit.
May, 2022: The owner of their Canterbury unit filed a civil case against Asra on May 13.
That action was taken four weeks after sheriff’s officers went to the apartment to serve the women with an eviction notice.
June 7, 2022: Officers conducting a welfare check made the grisly discovery.
There was no sign of forced entry.
Police believe the sisters died in May, but have not been able to determine a cause of death.