A woman who suffered a violent death with her two children in their south Dublin home three years ago spoke of her fear that she would be killed by her husband within two weeks of arriving in Ireland in late 2018.
The bodies of Seema Banu (37) and her children – daughter, Asfira (11) and son, Faizan (6) – were discovered almost two years later in their home in Llewellyn Court, Ballinteer, Co Dublin on October 28th, 2020.
An inquest into the deaths of the three victims on Thursday heard Ms Banu told a supermarket security guard on Christmas Eve in 2018, who had seen her and her children crying and in distress, that they were being beaten and tortured by her husband, Sameer Syed.
A sitting of Dublin District Coroner’s Court heard that Ms Banu had stated: “He is dangerous. He will kill me and I just want to go back to India.”
Ms Banu also repeatedly told people with whom she came in contact that she wanted to return home to India as she and her children had been forcibly brought to Ireland by Syed.
Evidence was heard that Ms Banu had money and passports ready since mid-2019 to try and flee from Syed.
She had been threatened by her husband that if she reported him to the authorities that gardaí would take her children away from her and she would not be able to see them again until they were 18.
A nephew of Ms Banu, Syed Suhan, who travelled to Ireland for the inquest, said she had warned her family during a visit to India in 2019 that if anything happened to her or her children that her husband would be responsible.
Mr Suhan also revealed that Syed had left India in 2019 before he faced a charge of assaulting his wife.
The coroner, Clare Keane, said she had an official report that recorded Ms Banu had been brought to a hospital in India on May 1st, 2019 after being assaulted by a relative.
The inquest heard that gardaí and social workers first became aware that Ms Banu and her children were the victims of domestic violence after they were alerted by Dunnes Stores staff in Sandyford on Christmas Eve in 2018.
A security guard, Kamran Khan, said he was approached by his manager while he was off-duty in the store to ask if he spoke Hindi.
Mr Khan explained that staff were concerned about a woman and two small children who were crying in the store.
Although a native of Pakistan and an Urdu speaker, Mr Khan said he was able to translate what Ms Banu was saying.
Mr Khan said Ms Banu said she needed help and wanted to go back home to India because her husband was beating and torturing her and their children “very badly” including earlier that day.
Mr Khan said she complained that Syed was torturing her all the time but did not explain how.
They were given food including chocolate after staff learnt that Ms Banu and her children had not eaten since the previous evening.
The inquest heard other supermarket staff had prevented her husband from coming into the store while Mr Khan was speaking to Ms Banu.
Mr Khan said she had told him that her husband had been working in Dubai and she and the children had lived in India but he had brought them to Ireland “to start a new life” with the promise that he would “keep her happy.”
“She just wanted to go back to India,” he recalled.
The security guard said Ms Banu wanted to go to a shelter as she did not want to go home to her husband but wanted to collect some items from their apartment first.
Mr Khan said staff had called gardaí who came to the store and took Ms Banu and her children away as well as taking details from her husband.
He told Dr Keane that he saw the family together again outside the supermarket a few days later when they “did not seem close and very quiet.”
Mr Khan said Asfira had also told him that she had been beaten by her father.
The inquest heard the girl had stated: “He is dangerous. He is beating us.”
Mr Khan said he contacted gardaí after he had received a photo of the three victims on his phone on October 30th, 2020, and was asked if he remembered them.
He said he was 99 per cent certain it was the same family.
Following the discovery of the bodies of Ms Banu and her children in October 2020, Syed was later arrested and charged with their murders.
However, Syed (38) took his own life in his cell at the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise in last June just a week before he was due to go on trial at the Central Criminal Court.
At the time the bodies of his wife and children were discovered, Syed was facing an appearance before Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on a charge of a serious assault on Ms Banu on May 16th, 2020.
Syed had been living in a property in Rathmines as he had been ordered to stay away from his family because of the upcoming assault case.
Reports at the time of her death claimed Ms Banu had plans to return to India to get away from her husband.
Following their deaths, Syed refused to allow the bodies of his wife and children to be repatriated to India, despite a large fundraising campaign in Ireland to offer financial support to the family to return the remains of their loved ones.
Members of Ms Banu’s family in India who travelled to Ireland for the inquest visited the graves of their relatives at a cemetery in Newcastle, Co Dublin earlier this week.
The inquest is taking place before a jury of six women and two men.