A new theory has emerged two Saudi sisters found dead could have feared persecution for their sexuality after it was revealed they attended a queer event.
Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24, and Amaal, 23, were discovered in their Canterbury unit in Sydney’s southwest on June 7.
Detectives have yet to determine the cause of their death months later and are chasing several leads.
A woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she met the sisters at a girls-only queer event in January, The Guardian reported.
She claimed police believe one of the sisters identified as queer and are unsure of the sexual orientation of the other one.
The woman described the sisters as ‘shy’ and said they were reluctant to talk more about their personal lives in Saudi Arabia.
Two Saudi sisters found dead in their beds could have feared persecution for their sexuality after it was revealed they attended a queer event (pictured, Amaal Abdullah Alsehli)
Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24 (pictured), and Amaal, 23, were discovered in their Canterbury unit in Sydney’s south-west on June 7
‘They mentioned that they were from Saudi Arabia, and we talked about what it is like to be queer there,’ she said.
‘They said women live in fear of their safety and that they were grateful to be living in Australia, where they could more freely express themselves.’
‘What’s terribly sad is they told me they were excited to be out at an event like this and that they were ready to start exploring more of Sydney.’
The woman said she contacted police after recognising photos of the sisters that were released by police following the discovery of their bodies.
NSW Police refused to comment when approached by Daily Mail Australia.
‘As the investigation is ongoing, police continue to appeal for information in relation to the death of the two women,’ a spokesperson said.
‘No further information is available at this stage.’
It’s believed the women had been dead for up to six weeks before police made the grim discovery of their decomposing bodies.
Bottles of chemicals such as bleach and other substances were found beside their bodies in separate bedrooms, leading detectives to suspect the pair planned to take their own lives.
Interim toxicology results showed traces of the substances found in the bedrooms inside the women’s bodies.
‘There’s no indication of anyone else being in the unit…no forced entry. It really does appear to be a tragic suicide,’ a police source told The Daily Telegraph.
More extensive testing is needed to determine the exact cause of death.
A NSW Police spokeswoman was unable to comment or confirm the new revelations.
‘It will be up to the Coroner to determine the cause of death,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
Bottles of chemicals such as bleach and other substances were found beside their bodies found in separate bedrooms, leading detectives to suspect the pair planned to take their own lives
Two months on from their deaths, police still have very few details about the two sisters who fled Saudi Arabia and arrived in Australia with $5,000 savings five years ago.
This is despite an extensive week-long public appeal and releasing the names and photos of the sisters at the request of the coroner.
It’s also been revealed a black BMW coupe was seized after the women’s bodies were found remains in a police holding yard.
The car is expected to be sold to recover debts owed to the women’s landlord after they stopped paying rent ten weeks before their fully clothed but decomposing bodies were found.
A letter sent on behalf of the landlord, exclusively obtained by Daily Mail Australia on Wednesday shows that the sisters racked up a $5,142.86 debt by May 13 – almost a month before their bodies were found, on June 7.
The sisters also owed $26.18 in outstanding water bills.
Their remains were uncovered in separate rooms of their $480-per-week Canterbury apartment by police during the last of three welfare checks.
The first check was conducted in mid-March – around the same time they stopped paying rent – after the property’s building manager raised concerns for their wellbeing because the food was left out in common areas.
A black BMW coupe seized from the Canterbury unit is expected to be sold to repay the women’s landlord after they stopped paying rent 10 weeks before their bodies were found
Attending officers said the woman appeared fine, and left the unit.
The second check was done between March and June, before their bodies were found during the final visit.
By the time the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal scheduled a hearing to address the rental debt on May 13, they were likely dead.
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting the landlord was in any way responsible for the sisters’ deaths.
READ THE EVICTION LETTER:
On 13-May-2022 the following orders were made:
The Residential Tenancy Agreement is terminated immediately and possession is to be given to the landlord on the date of termination.
The order for possession is suspended until 20-May-2022
The tenant shall pay the landlord a daily occupation fee at the rate of $68.57 per day from the day after the date of termination, namely 14-May-2022 until the date vacant possession is given to the landlord.
Within 60 days of the date for possession of the premises specified in these orders the landlord may request the relisting of the application to determine the amount of the occupation fee owing.
The landlord’s agent is to advise the tenant in writing by the delivery of a letter to the premises by 6:00 pm on 13-May-2022 of the orders made today.
The tenant is to pay the landlord the sum of $5,169.04 immediately. Failure to pay any instalment in this order by the due date will result in the whole of the balance being payable immediately.
The tenant has not appeared before the Tribunal in the hearing [on May 13].
Having regard to the Registrar’s statutory declaration concerning notice and listing procedures in the Tribunal’s registries, The Tribunal finds that a copy of the Notice of Hearing was sent to the tenant.
It has not been returned to the Tribunal. There is nothing to suggest that it was not received by the tenant. The Tribunal is satisfied that the tenant has been served with notice of the hearing today.
According to the letter addressed to Amaal from the Tribunal on May 13, the women did not attend the hearing and were subsequently ordered to pay any amount of the total sum ‘immediately’.
Their lease was effectively torn up and they were given until May 20 to vacate the property, though it is unclear why the motion wasn’t enforced.
For every day they remained at the property after May 14, they were charged an additional $68.57.
It wasn’t until June 7 when police arrived to evict them that anyone realised they were dead.
There was no sign of forced entry, no clear signs of injury, and the cause of death remains undetermined – although is being treated as suspicious.
The women, who lived on the corner flat above a burger shop, complained about a man ‘acting weird’ outside their building in the months before their deaths
Forensic police scoured the unit (pictured) in the wake of the grisly discovery on June 7 – a month after the women died
SYDNEY SAUDI ‘MURDER’ MYSTERY TIMELINE
2017: Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24, and Amaal Abdullah Alsehli, 23, are believed to have fled Saudi Arabia.
Upon arrival, they made contact with a refugee centre.
2019: Asra took an AVO out against a man, but it was later withdrawn.
2020: They frequently visited a service station around their flat, with locals describing them as ‘friendly’.
March, 2022: The sisters stopped paying $480/week for their Canterbury unit.
Police conducted the first of three welfare checks.
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 unit filed a civil case against Asra on May 13 due to $5,142.86 in outstanding rent.
That action was taken before 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.
An employee from the company that manages the building said the women approached them with safety concerns earlier this year.
‘They made a report that they saw a man ‘acting weird’ outside the building – standing between two cars and acting strange,’ the worker said.
They explained the women checked their security footage, but it was difficult to determine whether the man had malicious intentions.
‘We checked the CCTV and saw there was a man there,’ the employee said.
‘But that spot is busy. There is a burger shop there and Uber Eats drivers coming and going all the time. He could have been anyone.
‘We couldn’t determine why he was there, but he didn’t look like he was doing anything untoward, so there was no need to chase it up further.’
According to the worker, the women did not say whether they knew the man.
Later in 2021, the sisters told building management they feared someone was tampering with their food deliveries.
However, surveillance cameras again found no evidence to back up their fears.
The building’s surveillance was seized by police shortly after the women were discovered and is yet to be returned.
The latest development in the case comes as police backflipped on initial claims the sisters’ family had been cooperating with investigators.
NSW Police continually assured media the sisters’ family in the Saudi Kingdom were ‘cooperating’ and ‘helping’ with the investigation.
But police sources on Sunday 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 finally released in consultation with the coroner – not the family – almost two months after their bodies were found.
The coroner has not released the bodies of the sisters to their family, although it is understood they could be buried in Sydney.
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.
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
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.
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.
Investigators spent days the apartment building with forensic teams poring over the scene
The landlord said the sisters, who fled Saudi Arabia in 2017, 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.
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.’
WHY IS THE TOXICOLOGY REPORT TAKING SO LONG?
Despite insisting the toxicology tests were being ‘fast-tracked’, almost two months later police are still yet to be handed the reports – which usually only take four to six weeks.
Dr Dimitri Gerostamoulos, chief toxicologist and head of Forensic Scientific Services at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, said decomposition, staff shortages, high work load, and peculiar findings requiring further testing can all contribute to delays.
He said homicide cases usually only take between four to six weeks, but ‘can take longer depending on what drugs are found’.
If a drug is detected, he said further testing may be needed to ascertain the level of the substance in the person’s system.
‘It [the delay] could be that they have discovered something that needs special analysis,’ he said.
‘Sometimes when a drug turns up that is not expected, methods don’t always exist to test them, so they need to undergo specialised tests.
‘Not only are these tests challenging, but there are legal requirements to get them to a standard where they can be used in court, which does take time because they need to be watertight.’