Vigils Held In Australia For Murdered Israeli Student

The slain student, Aiia Maasarwe. Credit: BBC/Instagram

 

Hundreds of Australians dressed in black gathered in Melbourne on the steps of Victorian state parliament late Friday for a silent vigil in memory of murdered Israeli student Aiia Maasarwe.

The 21-year-old was killed on the way home from a comedy show in Melbourne just after midnight Tuesday.

Her body was found in bushes near a tram stop by passers-by several hours later on Wednesday morning.

“It’s a sad reason that we are here today,” one man attending the vigil told Channel Seven TV news. “To sit and stand in anger for what has happened.”

A woman holding back tears at the event said: “It’s just so sad, she seemed like such a lovely girl.”

Attendees will later fill the 86 tram, which Maasarwe was believed to have ridden on her way home, with red roses that were reportedly her favourite flowers.

Maasarwe’s father Saeed, visited the crime scene Friday, where dozens of flowers and messages from the public have been left nearby in support.

“I feel very very sad from one side, but from another side, when I get this support and this help — from the people, from the community, from the police — it makes the suffering to feel a little better,” he told reporters.

“This is the last place, my daughter… was here,” he added, breaking down in tears. “I want to be with her for more time, but someone decided I cannot be.”

Maasarwe was killed in a late-night attack while she was speaking on the phone with her sister.

Police, who have described the attack as “horrific”, arrested a 20-year-old man in the outer suburbs of Melbourne on Friday in connection to the murder.

“Homicide Squad detectives have arrested a man as part of the ongoing investigation into the death of Aiia Maasarwe,” Victoria Police said in a statement.

Campaigners have called for an end to the “epidemic of violence against women” in the city.

Some of the vigil organisers were the ones who had arranged a similar tribute for Eurydice Dixon, a 22-year-old local comedian who was killed in a Melbourne park last year as she was going home.

“We’re as angry as we were last time,” organiser Jessamy Gleeson told Melbourne’s Herald Sun on Friday, adding more needed to be done to keep women safe.

“We shouldn’t have these one-off vigils. There needs to be continued engagement and conversation about violence against women.”

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison took to Twitter on Friday, calling the crime “an incredibly shocking, despicable and tragic attack”.

“My heart goes out to Aiia’s family and friends and everyone whose life she touched.”

AFP

Student Killed While On Phone With Sister

Aiia Maasarwe. Credit: BBC/Instagram

 

An Israeli student has been killed in a late-night attack in Australia while she was speaking on the phone with her sister, police said Thursday.

Police appealed to the public for help tracking down the killer of 21-year-old Aiia Maasarwe, whose body was found early Wednesday near the campus of the Melbourne University where she was studying.

“This was a horrendous, horrific attack inflicted on a completely innocent young woman who was a visitor to our city,” Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper told reporters in Melbourne Thursday.

Maasarwe, who was reportedly five months into a year-long exchange at Melbourne’s LaTrobe University, was riding a tram home from a comedy club to the suburb of Bundoora before she was met by her attacker around midnight.

She was talking on the phone with her sister, who was overseas and raised the alarm after something went awry mid-conversation, police said.

“(Her sister) heard the sound of the phone falling to the ground and heard some voices,” Stamper said.

Her body was found Wednesday morning by passers-by at 7:00 am about 50 meters (165 feet) from the stop where she exited the tram.

Stamper said the report from her sister came in at about the same time.

Police would not confirm reports they were investigating a sexual assault but said known sex offenders are an “active line of inquiry”.

Officers retrieved a black baseball cap and a grey t-shirt they believe were worn by the perpetrator from the crime scene, which they described as “very distressing”.

The victim’s family, who are on their way to Australia, described Maasarwe as “happy”, “adventurous” and “smart”.

“I was in shock, I couldn’t believe it… the day before my wife had said to me, ‘We’ll have to go to Australia, Australia’s very safe, very nice’,” the victim’s uncle Rame Maasarwe told national broadcaster ABC from the United States.

“We cannot believe that something like this happened in Australia, we think it’s very safe there.”

Maasarwe was reportedly planning to go to China to work with her father’s business after her studies.

Police said they were “confident” of finding the perpetrator.

AFP