The two young Saudi sisters found dead in their beds were both seeking protection from the Australian government, it has been revealed, as more details about their attempts to build a normal life here emerged.
Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24, and Amaal Abdullah Alsehli, 23, each had an active claim for asylum in progress with the Department of Home Affairs, it has been confirmed.
They were found dead in their Canterbury unit in Sydney’s west on June 7 when police conducted a welfare check, with no visible signs of forced entry.
Police believe they may have been dead for a month – though no cause of death has been established – and appealed to the public for help
Pictured: Amaal Abdullah Alsehli, 23. Her body was found on June 7 in a Canterbury apartment
The reasons they sought protection from the Australian government, detailed in their claim, are not known.
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.
Pictured: Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24. She and her sister were found dead in Sydney’s south-west
The sisters only left the Canterbury unit they were found dead in 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, of NSW Police, said 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 was reported fled Saudi Arabia in 2017 with $5,000 during a family holiday, both attended Tafe in Wetherill Park.
Forensic police scoured the unit (pictured) in the wake of the grisly discovery on June 7 – a month after the women died
When they arrived in Sydney, they made contact with a refugee agency. Pictured: Their Canterbury apartment block, where they were found dead in June
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,’ the landlord told The Guardian.
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.
A black BMW coupe covered in dust was removed from the garage of the apartment block the day after the bodies were found
She applied for an apprehended violence order against a 28-year-old man in 2019 but later withdrew the application.
No cause of death has been determined – there were no clear signs of injury, and no signs of forced entry into the building.
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.’
The sisters flew from Saudi Arabia to Sydney, via Hong Kong, with $5,000 in their pocket (stock image of women in the Middle East)
The Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Sydney has offered its condolences to the family, who are believed to be ‘well connected’.
Despite local reports, NSW Police say the family are cooperating with investigators and have ‘no reason’ to believe the Alsehli sisters fled their homeland.
UNSOLVED MYSTERIES OF THE SAUDI SISTERS
– Fled Saudi Arabia as teens with $5,000, during a holiday with their parents
– Had a troubling relationship with their parents. NSW Police say the family are cooperating
– ‘Shocked’ landlord said their mother visited Sydney but didn’t like it
– They had access to money and drove a BMW, which was keyed
– Both studied at Tafe and worked in traffic control
– Asra filed an AVO, and then withdrew it
– Three police welfare checks
– They stopped paying rent
– Bodies found a month after they died
– Cause of death unknown
The Coroner has not released the bodies of the sisters to their family, although it is understood they could be buried in Sydney.
At a press conference on Wednesday, 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.
While police told Daily Mail Australia in June that the toxicology tests had been fast-tracked, detectives said on Wednesday they were still waiting on the results.
Toxicology reports are normally processed within four to six weeks.
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 Canterbury unit as mail piled up outside their door.
Police believe the women died in May – around the time they stopped paying rent.
As detectives struggle to find out what the women were doing in Australia, police on Wednesday released their photos for the first time.
‘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.’
Daily Mail Australia has approached Andrew Giles, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Human Rights Commission for comment.
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.