For years, Seema Banu was subjected to horrific physical abuse and emotional control at the hands of her husband.
She lived in Ireland with little English, no family and was financially dependent on him. Her first two weeks here consisted of daily beatings and torture.
Their daughter Asfira, who was only 11 when she died in October 2020, was also attacked by her father at times.
On Christmas Eve in 2018, they got a break from his violence when Gardaí took them to a women’s shelter. The next day the family returned home.
The following April, they traveled to India, where Mrs. Banu was again beaten by Syed, this time in front of her shocked family.
She was hospitalized and he traveled back to Ireland on his own on 19 May.
Relatives told an inquest this week that he tried to convince her to follow him with their children by telling her, “I won’t attack you again,” and “We’ll live happily from now on.”
Finally, in February 2020, the 37-year-old brought her daughter and son Faizan back to Dublin and settled with her husband at Llewellyn Court, Rathfarnham.
Syed’s promises were short-lived.
On May 15, Ms. Banu had a video call with her family, crying throughout and expressing fears that she would be killed.
Gardaí was called to the family home twice the next day and the second time they discovered her unconscious in bed upstairs, surrounded by her children.
Sameer Syed was arrested and later charged with assaulting his wife, and bail conditions meant he was not allowed near the family home.
Tusla also got involved and plans for the family were made.
Social workers noted that in the following weeks and months, Ms. Banu began defending her husband, denying that he had ever assaulted her.
Her cousin, Kashief Ahmed, said Syed convinced his wife that if she complained, Gardaí would separate her from their children.
On August 9, she recorded a video saying, “My husband loves me very, very much,” while describing the assault incident as a “misunderstanding.”
Nearly two months later, on October 3, she recorded another video with Asfira in which they claimed she passed out on the night of the attack after feeling dizzy.
Syed, despite orders to stay away from the house, was present when the recording was made. It was one of 29 “ghosting” visits he made to the house in a two-month period.
On the morning of October 22, social worker Holly Nuzum met Seema Banu.
Ms Nuzum, whose dedication to the family was praised by the court jury, noted that the mother-of-two appeared stressed and unwell.
Seema was offered support but declined.
When the social worker left, she said something that made Mrs. Banu smile.
“I told her she had a beautiful smile and she should do that more often,” Ms. Nuzum told her. It was the last time she saw her alive.
At 8:05 pm that evening, Syed left the property where he lived at Grosvenor Lodge, Rathmines, and walked a short distance to the nearby bus stop.
In an attempt to avoid detection, the cybersecurity expert left his phone at home, connected to Wi-Fi.
CCTV footage showed him boarding the No. 14 bus towards Rathfarnham.
A burly man, Syed disguised himself as a woman and wore an ankle-length dress, a large coat, a face covering and dark glasses while carrying a bag.
He sat downstairs as the bus drove to Llewellyn Court.
About half an hour later, CCTV footage showed him walking onto the estate in the direction of the parental home, after putting on normal clothes.
Examinations of appliances in the home give an indication of what happened next.
At 10:01 PM, Seema Banu recorded a video on her mobile phone confirming previous claims that her husband had not assaulted her in May. The injuries, she said, were self-inflicted, while also showing a signed “final statement” in which she again denied being assaulted.
Gardaí believes her daughter Asfira wrote the document in English at least a week earlier, as a photo of it was sent to Syed’s phone on October 16.
Little Asfira was also seen in the video saying, “Dad loves us very much. He loves us so much.”
The mother’s last message came at 12:24 a.m. when she messaged neighbor Vivienne Balwalya saying, “Not coming to school tomorrow.”
Gardaí believes Seema, Asfira and Faizan (6) were strangled by Syed over the next four hours.
The thorough Garda investigation, led by Detective Vivian Rock, found that all electronic devices in the home went out at 2 a.m.
At 4 a.m. two hours later, 38-year-old Syed left the house after killing his family.
Gardaí tracked his movements and discovered that he had dumped the house keys down a drain about a mile away. They were later recovered.
He also sent a package of documents to India and arrived at the court in Dublin that morning for his charge against his wife.
On October 23, Syed responded to a text message from Ms Balwalya about the matter, saying: “Hi Vivienne, please pray for
us to return to our normal lives.”
At 10:30 am on Wednesday 28 October, social worker Ms Nuzum arrived at 33 Llewellyn Court for an appointment with Ms Banu.
All the blinds were down, the doors were locked, and Mrs. Nuzum was worried.
Gardaí forced entry and found that a faucet in an upstairs bathroom had left running, damaging the kitchen ceiling and flooding the house.
Asfira (11) and Faizan (6) lay face down, side by side, in an upstairs bedroom.
They each had a scarf wrapped around their neck with a knot in the back. Asfira also had a plastic bag near her head.
Their mother was found on her bed in another room, lying on her back with a scarf around her neck, and her “closing statement” neatly placed on the bedside table.
All three died of suffocation due to ligature strangulation.
Gardaí launched a murder investigation and a family liaison officer was appointed for Syed who was in the early stages
at least, a bereaved father appeared.
However, digital evidence showed that he was at the family home on the night of October 22, while forensics determined that his fingerprint was found on the bag next to Asfira’s head.
He denied any involvement when arrested a month after the murders, but was later charged with all three murders.
When he was shown the footage of himself dressed as a woman on the bus, Syed “capitulated”.
He admitted in interviews with Detective Peter Woods that he was there the night they were killed and that he was responsible for his wife’s death, but claimed that “another party” killed his children.
Syed was due to stand trial last June but died by suicide a week earlier while in custody at Midlands Prison.
Ms Banu’s family members, Syed Suhan and Kashief Ahmed, were present in Dublin’s Coroner’s Court this week as the jury delivered a verdict of unlawful murder against all three victims.
The coroner, Dr Clare Keane, praised the Garda investigation and Tusla, expressing her condolences to the family.
While the inquest answers some of their family’s questions, Sameer Syed’s death means they’ll never really know why he killed his wife and two children that night.