Sameer Syed staged scene of wife’s and children’s murder

Attempt to make crime appear a murder-suicide carried out by the 37-year-old mother

Sameer Syed staged the scene of the murders of his wife, Seema Banu, and their two young children to make it look like a murder-suicide carried out by the 37-year-old mother.

He also dressed in women’s clothing to make covert visits to their family home in south Dublin during a five-month period in 2020 when he was on bail after attacking his wife and causing her serious harm.

It is believed he wore a hijab going to and from the house in Rathfarnham where the murders took place on the day of the killings in a bid to conceal his presence.

Syed (38), an Indian national, was the only suspect in the murder of his wife Seema, daughter Asfira Riza (11) and son Faizan Syed (6). He was found dead on Thursday in his prison cell at the Midlands Prison, Portlaoise, Co Laois, just days before he was due to go on trial for the three killings almost two years ago.

Gardaí believe the pre-planned murders in October, 2020, were the culmination of a campaign of domestic abuse, including physical violence. They also believe Syed was angered and felt dishonoured after separating from his wife, who was about to give evidence against him when the assault case went to court.

He left a tap on in the house where the murders occurred in an apparent bid to ensure the remains were discovered. Gardaí suspect this was part of his plan to make it appear as if his wife killed the children and then herself and wanted the remains to be found quickly.

The bodies were discovered at the flooded family home on Llewellyn Court, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16, on October 28th, 2020, though the killings had taken place several days earlier. Neighbours became concerned when they had not seen Ms Banu or her children for a number of days and rang gardaí. When members of the Armed Support Unit went to the house and forced their way inside the victims were found in the upstairs bedrooms.

All three had been strangled, the murderer used ligatures. After the discovery of the bodies a Garda alert was released in an attempt to establish the whereabouts of Syed on the basis he could have been involved in a serious crime and might also be armed.

While he was soon tracked down and met gardaí, he was not co-operative. Instead, he was placed under surveillance and a covert trawl of his bank accounts and phone records was conducted. Exactly one month after the murders were discovered Syed was arrested and charged with the three killings. He did not get bail and had been in prison awaiting trial, which was due to begin next Wednesday at the Central Criminal Court and was scheduled to run for five weeks.

Though no third-party involvement is suspected in his death, it is under investigation by the prison service, the Inspector of Prisons and the Garda. The prison service said it could confirm “the death of a prisoner in the Midlands Prison” on Thursday but provided no further detail.

Ms Banu and Syed were both from Mysuru, a city in Karnataka, India. They had left India for Dubai and lived there for a time before moving to Dublin. After the couple had separated, Syed, who worked in cybersecurity, was living in Grosvenor Lodge, Rathmines, Dublin 6.

The serious assault he committed on Ms Banu occurred in May, 2020, when she lost consciousness and was hospitalised. The assault case, with Ms Banu as a witness, was due to come before the courts the day after the bodies were discovered in the family home. The case could not proceed because Ms Banu, who was both victim and chief witness, had been murdered.

Despite being the chief suspect for the murders of his wife and children from the outset, and having been charged with seriously assaulting Ms Banu, Syed still led mourners at the funerals at Clonskeagh Mosque and at the Muslim Cemetery in Newcastle.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times