Australia

The one tool police haven’t yet used that could help solve the tragic case of Sydney’s Saudi sisters

As police continue to seek out information from the public about two, there is one tool authorities haven’t used yet.
NSW Police renewed their appeal for information to the public over a week ago, releasing the names and photographs of Amaal, 23, and Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24, to encourage anyone to come forward about their deaths.
But there has not yet been an official call-out about the police investigation in Arabic, which some say could be key to solving the case.
SBS News understands that police are currently working on translating an appeal for information into Arabic to distribute across a dozen Arabic media outlets in Australia.

“Translating media releases into target languages to reach specific communities is just one of the strategies the NSW Police Force adopts based on the requirements of detectives investigating cases,” a NSW Police spokesperson said in a statement to SBS News.

Asra Abdullah Alsehli and her sister Amaal came to Australia in 2017 and were seeking asylum. Source: AAP / NSW Police

“That is something the NSWPF (NSW Police Force) does often, again, based on the strategy that police are deploying at the time.”

The NSW Police statement did not refer specifically to the case of the two sisters.
When the Alsehli sisters arrived in Australia in 2017, they settled in the western Sydney suburb of Fairfield for three years, where Arabic is the most spoken language.

According to the 2021 Census, almost 17 per cent of Fairfield’s population speaks Arabic, compared to 1.4 per cent of the country’s overall population.

Saudi-born Australian interpreter Arwa Abousamra told SBS News that Australia’s Arabic-speaking community could have a lead for police to find more information about the sisters.
She said information translated into Arabic is “crucial” in allowing Arab residents in Australia to assist the police with their investigation.

“It may not be necessarily just somebody here in Australia, it may be somebody who knows somebody overseas, and that information is going to be invaluable,” she said.

A woman in a hijab smiles in a selfie

Arwa Abousamra says translating public appeals for information is “crucial” in helping the police’s investigation. Source: Supplied / Arwa Abousamra

“We need to be able to help as a community with the police force when they seek our help. How can you help when you don’t know what they want? How can you help you when you don’t know what’s happening?”

Detective Inspector Claudia Allcroft said any piece of information provided by the public could hold the key to solving the investigation after being unable to confirm the deaths of the women.
While Ms Abousamra was pleased that the police were now taking steps to reach Arabic-speaking communities, she said distributing the information only to media outlets feels “limiting” and “a little late”.
“[The translated information] should be offered to as many people as possible. All community members should be able to help in facilitating that information across a large or larger group of people.”

She believes that a lead could come from an Arabic-speaking person if they were given the opportunity to hear about the appeal for information.

“That’s what the outcome would be for any information that is released, whether it be English or any other language, is that somebody out there remembers, has heard, has interacted with, has any kind of information where they can then report that back to the police to make police’s job easier.”
Police said the bodies of the sisters were found in separate rooms in their Canterbury unit in June but were believed to have died more than a month before they were discovered.
Officers arrived at their apartment after a welfare check was requested by the building manager when they stopped paying their rent.
They have since struggled to obtain extensive information about the sisters, who lived reclusive lives in Australia with little-recognised social ties or social media presence.

SBS News has confirmed they were seeking asylum in Australia, but the reasons for their asylum claim remain unknown.

File source

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