Tight-knit generations of the same family all lived together under one roof before their matriarch, the mum of two Covid-infected removalists who travelled to regional NSW while infected, died with the virus on Monday.
The 54-year-old mother of Roni and Ramsin Shawka, 27, was found dead at their home in Green Valley in Sydney’s south-west around 9.15am on Monday.
Neighbours said the woman had only tested positive for the disease three days earlier and had barely shown any symptoms.
NSW Health confirmed she was the latest ‘Covid-related death’ to hit the state during the brutal second wave of the virus.
‘They were a lovely family,’ said one neighbour. ‘They would always smile at you and wave as they drove past. They are very nice, very friendly.
Generations of the tragic Shawka family (pictured) all lived together under the same roof before Covid killed the mother of the two removalists who travelled to regional NSW while infected
The 54 year old mother of Roni and Ramsin Shawka, 27, was found dead at their home in Thursday Place (pictured) in Green Valley in Sydney’s south-west around 9.15am on Monday
‘You’d see kids playing in the front garden at the weekends and they parked their removal truck down the side.’
The family had only moved into the area about 18 months ago after snapping up the expansive detached home for $925,000 in December 2019.
The sprawling five bedroom, three bathroom, two storey house was home to the dead woman and her husband, their twin sons, their partners and their sister, said neighbours.
Other neighbours also said they often saw young children playing outside the house.
As news spread of the mother’s sudden death, other family members flocked to the scene but were kept at a distance by police who locked down the whole street.
One of the family’s cousins was among those who were turned away and was consoled by neighbours.
‘It’s a huge shock,’ said one neighbour. ‘You see all the stories about Covid on television but to have a case on your street and for someone to die in their home, it’s a bit scary.
Neighbours said the woman had only tested positive for the disease three days earlier and had barely shown any symptoms. Seen here is the street in lockdown where the dead woman lived
‘One of the other neighbours is also Assyrian like the Shawkas and they spoke to the family. They said the mother didn’t even know she had Covid – she had hardly any symptoms, they said.
‘She tested positive and now three days later she’s dead. She wasn’t even old – just 54. It’s an awful tragedy.’
Another added: ‘They were hard-working people and kept the house beautifully. The front yard was always in perfect condition.’
Police have kept the street in lockdown since the discovery of the mother’s body and no traffic has been allowed in or out.
Neighbours were concerned they were about to be put into quarantine but police on the scene have told them that will not be required.
Ramsin Shawka, 27, (pictured with partner) was also part of the removalist team and has since tested positive
Police have kept the street in lockdown (pictured) since the discovery of the mother’s body and no traffic has been allowed in or out
Another neighbour added: ‘We are in lockdown anyway so it’s not going to make much difference.’
Three family members who were living and isolating in the home, which is in Sydney’s Covid ‘epicentre’ in the southwest, were ordered to their cars after police made the grim discovery.
The trio, one woman and two men, were told to ‘quarantine’ as investigations into the woman’s death continued.
They were split between three cars where they waited from 9.30am until 3.30pm for the victim’s body to be removed from the home.
Three family members who were living and isolating in the home, which is in Sydney’s Covid ‘epicentre’ in the southwest, were ordered to their cars after police made the grim discovery
White vans lined the street well into the afternoon as authorities in personal protective equipment came and went.
All the while, the woman’s devastated relatives were ordered to remain inside their cars to lessen the risk of them transmitting the virus.
At one stage, authorities were using a speaker phone to communicate with the trio, who were all wearing face masks even inside the cars.
After about six hours in their cars, they were instructed they could return to the house.
The entire street was declared a crime scene at about 9.30am and two police cars remained by 5pm.
Following the grim discovery, residents in nearby houses were reportedly told the entire street has been placed under ‘hard lockdown’ as investigations into the death continue.
A report is being prepared for the coroner and inquiries are continuing.
One of the family’s cousins was among those who were turned away and was consoled by neighbours. Seen here is a police officer in full PPE at the scene
The four-man removalist crew were already in Orange when NSW Health called to inform Roni that he had tested positive to the highly contagious Indian Delta strain.
Police allege the crew kept driving to Molong, further west, to finish off their delivery before being escorted home by cops after two more of the men tested positive.
The twins and Shanki have now been charged with breaching public health orders and are set to face Orange Local Court on August 30.
But Roni, who moved to Australia from Iraq, has said they are not to blame and he had not known he was Covid-positive.
‘Of course I feel very bad, I feel very bad for what I have done, but it’s not my fault. I was driving and he called me from the health department, he told me to stop working and go home, I was already in Orange,’ Roni told the Daily Telegraph.
Roni Shawka, 27, (pictured with partner) says he did not know he had Covid when he and a team of removalists drove to regional NSW
‘I gave them the number of my boss, I told them my language is not very good. I did not kill someone… I was doing my work, I swear to god I didn’t know I was positive.’
The men face $11,000 fines each and up to six months in jail.
The removalists, who work as third-party contractors for a large western Sydney firm, drove to Figtree near Wollongong on Thursday for a job.
Their employer Aram Yousif then told them they must get tested for Covid-19 under new restrictions brought in by the NSW government.
The new measures require ‘essential workers’ from Fairfield, Liverpool and the Canterbury-Bankstown areas to undergo regular tests if they are to leave their Local Government Areas – now the epicente of Sydney’s outbreak which has climbed to 1,242 infections.
After getting tests under these rules, workers only need to isolate if they have symptoms, something all of the men say they didn’t experience.
Having got their tests, the removalists left Sydney again at 4am the following day, driving down the M4 from West Hoxton to Molong, stopping at South Bowenfels and Orange.
The family were liked in their street and regularly parked their truck down the side of the house. Seen here is the outside of the family home in Green Valley in Sydney’s south-west
The four-man removalist crew were already in Orange when NSW Health called to inform Roni that he had tested positive to the highly contagious Indian Delta strain. Seen here is a map of their route
At 9.36am Roni Shawka’s phone rang, but with the language barrier proving challenging, he told the NSW Health worker to contact his boss Mr Yousif.
Mr Yousif received the call which instructed him to tell Roni he needed to isolate in the cabin of their removal truck.
He claims there was no mention about what should happen to the other men, who were not showing any symptoms.
‘These guys have not broken any rules. We just followed the instructions, we have not done anything wrong by the public … but whatever a court decides we will accept,’ he said.
Shortly after they left the job in regional NSW, Ramsin Shawka and Maryo Shanki also returned returned positive tests.
At this point, NSW Health ordered a police escort to usher the group back to western Sydney.