Their reluctance to speak to authorities or even open their front door concerned workers and managers in their building enough to call police officers to perform a welfare check in March. They said, “no we’re alright,” and that they did not need help, one witness said.
However, they “looked pretty timid and upset, scared for whatever reason,” the witness said.
The sisters’ decomposing bodies were found in separate bedrooms in their small flat when the sheriff attended to query their failure to pay rent in early June. Their bodies lay undiscovered for a month in a block of 200 apartments beside one of the busiest roads in south-west Sydney.
Reports in Middle Eastern news outlets, which were widely re-reported in Australia at the weekend, said that the sisters were known as Reem and Rawan and fled to Hong Kong while on a family holiday with $5000.
However, the reports appear to have confirmed the Alsehlis’ escape with a separate case.
Another set of sisters who used the names Reem and Rawan were famously detained in Hong Kong in 2018 at the request of Saudi authorities after renouncing Islam and fleeing their family while on holiday with $5000 they had secretly saved.
Contacts of those sisters confirmed to the herald that they were alive and well in an undisclosed country.
Like many women who leave Saudi Arabia, Reem and Rawan fled because of abuse by their male relatives. Police said they were in contact with the Alsehli sisters’ family, and there was “nothing to suggest” the women’s relatives were suspects.
A police source did confirm that the women’s family did not want to publicly issue photographs, but the coroner ordered their release to encourage members of the community to come forward with information that might help the investigation.
Another person with knowledge of the case, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the sisters had traveled to Australia through Jordan and Dubai. Police have been tight-lipped about their movements and visa status.
The case has echoes of one in New York, in which the bodies of two Saudi sisters – who were seeking asylum – were found next to the Hudson River, bound together with duct tape by the wrists and ankles. There were no signs of trauma.
Their deaths were ruled a suicide, New York Times reported.
The coroner will decide whether to hold an inquiry once they have reviewed the police evidence and the autopsy results.
with Maher Mughrabi
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