Two Saudi sisters who were found dead in their rented apartment in Sydney, Australia, last month were “scared of something” in the weeks leading up to the grim discovery of their bodies.
That’s according to a source cited by the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday, who said the two young sisters, aged 23 and 24, were so terrified of opening their apartment door that when they did they were “tucked in the corner like two little sparrows.”
The bodies of Asra and Amaal Alsehli are thought to have sat in their Canterbury apartment for weeks before they were found by authorities visiting over complaints about overdue rent in early June. Police have said they are in touch with the sisters’ family, which is cooperating with an ongoing probe, but investigators are largely in the dark about what the two were doing in Sydney since they moved to Australia in 2017.
Adding to the mystery, police said there were no signs of forced entry, and the sisters had no obvious injuries. They were found in separate bedrooms in the apartment.
The New South Wales Police Force issued a public appeal this week asking for anyone with information about the women to come forward.
“As the cause of death is not known, and the circumstances are somewhat unusual, police are investigating the circumstances and are appealing for information,” Detective Inspector Claudia Allcroft was quoted saying by Seven News, adding that investigators “don’t know a lot about the girls.”
A source cited by the Herald said the sisters had sought asylum in Australia, but police would not confirm that. Police also said separately they had no evidence to suggest the sisters had fled their homeland for safety reasons.
Staffers at the building where they lived described a strange series of occurrences before the sisters’ deaths, however.
“I took one look at those girls, and thought, ‘You are hiding something.’ These girls were very secretive. They kept a very low profile,” a worker who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Herald.
He recalled a plumber questioning what was going on after paying a visit to their unit: “[He] said, ‘there’s something mysterious happening there.’”
The sisters had expressed fears to building management that someone might have been messing with their food late last year, though surveillance footage didn’t detect anything out of the ordinary, the worker said.
At one point, managers became so alarmed by the sisters’ apparent fear of the outside world that they requested a welfare check from police.
“The girls did not want to open the door; they did not want to participate in any sort of conversation,” the worker was quoted saying. “The cops said, ‘We’re worried. Can we help you?’”
But the women declined to let them in.
In 2018, there appeared to be another red flag as the 24-year-old sister, Asra, filed for a domestic violence protection order, but it was withdrawn and ultimately dismissed, according to the Herald.
Many Saudi women have opted to move overseas to escape abuse at home that is enabled by the government’s harsh restrictions against women. In 2019, Rahaf Mohammed’s desperate escape attempt made international headlines as she barricaded herself in an airport hotel in Thailand and livestreamed her pleas for help to get asylum, saying she faced abuse and death threats at home for leaving Islam. She ultimately was granted asylum in Canada.
In a separate incident, two Saudi sisters were found dead in New York in 2019 after reportedly saying they’d rather die than be forced to return home. Medical examiners ruled their cause of death a double suicide.