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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Seema Banu

Inquest hears woman found dead with two children had expressed fear of being killed by husband

The bodies of Seema Banu and her two children were discovered in their home in Co Dublin on 28 October 2020.

LAST UPDATE | Mar 30th 2023, 10:18 PM

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 28 October 2020.

An inquest into the deaths of the three victims today heard 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 Banu had stated: “He is dangerous. He will kill me and I just want to go back to India.”

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 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 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.

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 Banu had been brought to a hospital in India on 1 May 2019 after being assaulted by a relative.

The inquest heard that gardaí and social workers first became aware that 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.

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, Khan said he was able to translate what Banu was saying.

He said she 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.

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 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 Khan was speaking to Banu.

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 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.

Khan said staff had called gardaí who came to the store and took 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”.

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.”

Khan said he contacted gardaí after he had received a photo of the three victims on his phone on 30 October 2020 and was asked if he remembered them.

He said he was 99% certain it was the same family.

Following the discovery of the bodies of 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 Banu on 16 May 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 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 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.


Syed had appeared in court a few days before the discovery of the bodies of his wife and children on a charge of assault causing harm to Banu on 16 May 2020.

The inquest heard gardaí were twice called to the family home at Llewellyn Court on that date.

Garda Owen Brennan gave evidence of arriving at the house at around 5pm after receiving a report of domestic violence.

The witness said Banu had told him of experiencing ongoing controlling tactics and physical abuse by her husband as well as “a high level of fear.”

Brennan said he assessed the woman as being at a serious risk of being assaulted by Syed and he recommended that a shelter should be found for her after Ms Banu said she needed assistance.

However, he said she subsequently did not want to leave her home and did not wish to make a formal complaint against her husband.

Brennan said that while follow-up checks were normally carried out the following day after such domestic incidents, he was so concerned that he asked other gardaí to call to the home later that evening.

Before that took place, gardaí received another alert about an incident of domestic violence at the house at 6.50pm.

Detective Garda Brian O’Neill, who called to Llewellyn Court on the second occasion, said it had taken 10 minutes for Syed to answer the front door.

The inquest heard gardaí called an ambulance for Ms Banu after finding her lying unresponsive in an upstairs room.

O’Neill said there were choke marks on her neck and other marks on her arm.

Banu was found to have a slightly reduced consciousness when brought to the emergency department at St James’s Hospital but she was discharged later than evening.

O’Neill said Syed was subsequently arrested and charged with assaulting his wife.

He appeared before Dublin District Court on May 18, 2020 where he was refused bail following a Garda objection.

Syed was subsequently released from custody on condition that he did not return to the family home and the inquest was informed that he went to stay with a friend in Rathmines.

O’Neill said Syed had twice unsuccessfully applied for his bail conditions to be varied to allow him to return to Llewellyn Court.

A next-door neighbour of the family in Ballinteer, Vivian Balwalya, described how earlier that afternoon Banu had come into her back garden and showed her some marks on her neck and forearm.

Balwalya said she intervened between the couple after Syed also came into her garden and was trying to get his wife to go back into their house.

However, she said Syed was not aggressive at the time.

Balwalya said she saw gardaí arrive at the house later that day and again some hours later but she had not alerted them on either occasion.

She recalled that Syed was shaken and looking in disbelief when he was taken away in handcuffs.

Balwalya said Banu, who slept on her couch that night, subsequently claimed she wanted her husband back because she missed him and he was “a good man.”

“All she wanted was to get her family back,” she added.

Bawalya said Syed had texted her on 23 October 2020 with the message: “Please pray for us to get back to our normal life.”

The inquest heard Balwalya last had contact from Banu on the same day when she had informed her neighbour that Asfira and Faizan would not be at school.

Balwalya said she knew something was wrong on October 28, 2020 when she saw social workers calling to their home.

She said she contacted Syed and advised him to contact gardai and that he was crying when he rang her back later.

Questioned by Dr Keane, Balwalya said Banu was positive about her situation over the months following the assault incident and she was happy at being reunited with her kids who had been taken away for a while.

Balwalya, told the hearing that she had permission from Tusla to bring Asfira and Faizan on supervised visits to see their father as he was no longer allowed to go near the family home and that Banu had wanted the children to see Syed.

Banu’s nephew, Syed Suhan, said his aunt had told her family that Syed used to beat and abuse her.

Suhan said she was initially happy to go to Ireland but did not want to return there after going back to India in 2019.

However, he believed she returned to Ireland because her husband had said he was sorry and heartbroken without her.

Another nephew, Kashief Ahmed, revealed Banu had sent videos to her relatives back in India about feeling lonely and having no family or friends in Ireland.

However, Ahmed said she was mostly describing how Syed was continuously assaulting her.

The witness said he believed she stayed with her husband because other relatives might have told her to stay with him.

A former garda, Aisling Long, who responded to the call from Dunnes Stores, said Banu did not want to make a formal complaint, although she had admitted that her husband used to slap her, hold her throat and speak “dirty words” to her.

Long, who reported the incident to Tusla, said she returned with the family to their home where both Banu and Syed were upset before she brought her and the two children to a shelter in Blanchardstown.

A social care worker at the shelter, Mutale Kampuni, said Banu had not wanted to return home to her husband but had told her that she was in contact with relatives in India and felt she had to stay with him because they were married.

A neighbour of the family when they lived in an apartment in the Beacon South Quarter, Sudha Sankarguru, described how Banu called to her home on 1 March 2019 to borrow her phone to make a call to her family in India.

Sankarguru, said Ms Banu appeared upset after long hours of crying but had repeatedly insisted that nothing should be said to her husband.

A friend of Syed, Mohammed Hussein, told the inquest that the IT consultant was “shaking and crying” when he informed him about the death of his wife and children.

A former work colleague, Ahmed Aburahal, said Syed had been unhappy that his wife had not settled in Ireland but hoped things would be better after he had changed to a better job and they had moved home.

Aburahal, who became part of a protection network approved by Tusla to support the family, said Syed was “not just intelligent but street smart” and would know the consequences of engaging in domestic violence in Ireland.

He said his former colleague had gone crazy after being put in prison although he never admitted hitting his wife.

“I saw a family in desperate need of support,” Aburahal remarked.

He said Syed felt he was being treated unfairly by Tusla and that visits by Tulsa personnel were putting pressure on his wife.

A Tusla social worker, Ciara Murphy, told the inquest changes had been made in how it deals with child protection issues involving a vulnerable adult like Ms Banu as a result of the case.

The coroner said such evidence was “positive and reassuring.”

The inquest heard Syed formally identified the bodies of his wife and children to gardaí on 30 October 2020.

The hearing before a jury of six women and two men will resume on Friday.

Seán McCárthaigh