Two crucifixes were found in a Canterbury apartment where Saudi sisters Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24, and Amaal Abdullah Alsehli, 23, were found dead in June, a worker with access to the apartment has told the ABC.
The discovery was made after the women’s bodies were removed.
The worker told the ABC that the crucifixes were found on the floor of one of the bedrooms.
The ABC could not independently corroborate this claim.
It’s unclear whether the discovery of the crosses was a sign that the sisters had renounced Islam and converted to Christianity or whether they were using them as a disguise.
No signs of forced entry
In June, the bodies of the women were found naked and in separate beds.
This prompted the apartment’s building manager Michael Baird to dismiss suicide as a potential cause of death.
“Two young women do not commit suicide together unless they’re doing it together. They don’t get naked, they don’t go to separate rooms, they don’t die separately,” he said.
Police say they have not yet ruled out homicide or suicide as their investigations continue.
A worker, who accessed the apartment after the police had made the grim discovery, said the sisters’ bodies were found in a state of decomposition.
Last month, tradespeople entered the apartment to replace the flooring.
One told the ABC that the apartment still “has the smell of dead bodies.”
The sisters are thought to have been dead for over a month before a sheriff was called at the behest of their landlord, as the girls were behind on rent payments. This sheriff made the discovery and called the police.
After locating the bodies, police said there were no obvious signs of injury or forced entry although they have called the deaths “unusual.”
They are waiting on the results of postmortem examinations and toxicology tests.
In a press conference last week, the NSW Police released images of the two women and published their names, as they launched a community appeal for any information about the women’s movements.
Burwood Police Station has now established Strike Force Woolbird to investigate the circumstances surrounding their deaths.
living in fear
The ABC has confirmed that the sisters had applied for a protection visa with the Department of Home Affairs, and they had been in contact with a settlement service for refugees.
Michael Baird, a director of Sydney’s Transparent FM Building Management which manages the Canterbury apartment block, said he was aware that the young women were concerned about their safety.
In a January 2022 email sent to the site manager, younger sister Amaal asked if building management could check the security cameras as she feared someone had tampered with a recent food delivery order.
“I think the girls were very, very scared. Very afraid of something. And we’re not sure whether it was something or someone, they didn’t tell us,” Mr Baird said.
Mr Baird said his first interaction with the women had taken place earlier this year when their car had been “keyed”.
“We believed that it was not a personal attack on them because they’d parked their car in an unusual position. And somebody’s obviously taken offense to it,” Mr Baird said, about the incident.
His second interaction with the women was when he organized for a plumber to visit their apartment.
“When [the plumber] came out of that unit, he said that he was concerned that there was something untoward happening in the apartment. He got a very bad vibe,” Mr Baird said.
“He was pretty shaken up. He said, ‘I’m never coming back to that apartment again’.”
Mr Baird asked the local site manager to contact the police at the time and he understood that the women had subsequently told police they were fine.
Mr Baird has not been contacted by the police for a statement.
Another building worker told the ABC that he knew that the women had noticed a man watching their apartment from across the street.
The worker, who is familiar with the building’s residents, said he’d also seen an unknown Middle Eastern man inside the building on two occasions in the months leading up to the sisters’ death.
The building worker said when he asked the man which apartment he was from, the man gave the women’s address.
‘really good people’
The sisters arrived in Australia from Saudi Arabia in 2017.
They lived in Sydney’s western suburbs for about eighteen months with their friend Rita, while they attended the local TAFE.
“[Amaal and Asra] we were just really good people. They did nothing harmful,” Rita said.
“They moved to this house because it was like closer to their TAFE. And they usually stayed up all night and only slept in the morning.”
She said the women worked in construction. They had applied for an ABN in 2018, and were registered as sole traders.
Rita said the sisters’ mother had visited Australia on one occasion.
“Their mum came here once. She didn’t like it. Then she went back to her country,” Rita said.
The young women led a discreet life. They didn’t have many visitors, apart from a man Rita believed to be Asra’s boyfriend, an “Iraqi man with a beard”.
Early in 2020, after they’d lived with Rita for about 18 months, the sisters decided to move out.
They moved into the Canterbury apartment in November 2021.
At the time of publication, Rita said the police had not interviewed her or her family.
A Home Affairs departmental spokesperson told the ABC: “The Department does not comment on individual cases.”
Since 2017, 86 women from Saudi Arabia applied for permanent protection in Australia and 75 were granted a permanent protection visa.
This story has been updated from an earlier version to clarify who found the women’s bodies.
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