On the top floor, sharing his bedroom, was his youngest wife and favourite. The trouble came when his eldest wife showed up and moved into the bedroom on the floor below.
Others in the family, crammed into the three-storey villa compound where bin Laden would eventually be killed in a US raid last May, were convinced the eldest wife intended to betray the al-Qaeda leader.
The picture of bin Laden’s life in the Abbottabad compound comes from Shaukat Qadir, a retired Pakistani army officer who spent months researching the events and says he was given rare access to transcripts of Pakistani intelligence’s interrogation of bin Laden’s youngest wife, who was detained in the raid.
Mr Qadir was also given access to the villa, which was sealed after the raid and demolished last month. Pictures he took show the main staircase splattered with blood, windows protected by iron grills and the 20ft walls around the villa.
His research showed the compound where bin Laden lived after mid-2005 was a crowded place, with 28 residents – including him, his three wives, eight of his children and five grandchildren. His children ranged in age from son Khalid, who was in his 20s and died in the raid, to a three-year-old born during their time in Abbottabad. Bin Laden’s courier, the courier’s brother and their wives and children also lived in the compound.
Bin Laden himself seemed aged beyond his 54 years, with suspected kidney or stomach diseases, and there were reported worries over his mental health.
He lived and died on the third floor. One room he shared with his youngest wife, Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, a Yemeni who was 19 when she married the al-Qaeda leader in 1999. Another wife, Siham Sabar, lived in another room on the same floor that also served as a computer room, Mr Qadir said.
The arrival in early 2011 of his eldest wife, Saudi-born Khairiah Sabar, stirred up the household, Sada said in her interrogation.
There was already bad blood between Khairiah Sabar, who married bin Laden in 1985, and Sada because of his favouritism for the younger woman.
Even officials who questioned Khairiah Sabar after the raid were daunted by her. “She is so aggressive that she borders on being intimidating,” Mr Qadir was told by an interrogator.
Sada stayed close to bin Laden as he fled Afghanistan into Pakistan following the 2001 US invasion. She took an active role in arranging protection for him, and bin Laden wanted her by his side, tribal leaders told Mr Qadir.
Khairiah Sabar fled from Afghanistan into Iran in 2001, along with other bin Laden relatives and al-Qaeda figures. She and others were held under house arrest in Iran until 2010, when Tehran let them leave in a swap for an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Pakistan’s frontier city of Peshawar.
Khairiah showed up at Abbottabad in February or March 2011, Sada told her interrogators.
Khalid, bin Laden’s son with Siham Sabar, was suspicious, Sada said. He repeatedly asked Khairiah why she had come. At one point, she told him: “I have one final duty to perform for my husband.” Khalid told his father what she had said and warned she intended to betray him.
Sada, who shared his fears, said bin Laden was also suspicious but was unconcerned, acting as if fate would decide.
However, there is no evidence Khairiah had any role in his fate.
Bin Laden had two marriages before Khairiah that ended in divorce and had more than 20 children with his various wives.