MELBOURNE, Australia – A man has been arrested in relation to the murder of an Israeli student in Melbourne, Victoria Police said on Friday.
The body of 21-year-old La Trobe University exchange student Aiia Maasarwe was found in Bundoora suburb at about 7:00 am Wednesday after what Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper described as an “absolutely horrendous, horrific attack.”
“Homicide Squad detectives have arrested a man as part of the ongoing investigation into the death of Aiia Maasarwe,” Sergeant Julie-Anne Newman said in a statement released by Victoria Police on Friday.
“The 20-year-old was arrested in Greensborough by local police working in partnership with homicide detectives about 11:20 am,” she added.
Police believe Maasarwe had been out at a comedy club on Tuesday night and was dropped off by friends at a tram stop on Bourke Street in the central business district at 10:50 pm.
She is believed to have got off the tram in Bundoora, north Melbourne, near her accommodation just after midnight. The stop is about 100 meters from where her body was found near Polaris shopping mall.
When the attack took place, Maasarwe was talking to her sister who lives overseas, police said at a Thursday press conference. The sister then heard the sound of the phone falling to the ground and some voices.
“It appears the 21-year-old Israeli national had been seriously assaulted; however, the exact circumstances surrounding her death are yet to be determined,” police said in a statement on Thursday.
Police had appealed to the public to identify a T-shirt and a cap found in the area, and during a police search, some of Maasarwe’s belongings were found in a park across the road.
“My heart goes out to Aiia’s family and friends and everyone whose life she touched. An incredibly shocking, despicable and tragic attack,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted Friday morning.
A silent vigil will be held for Maarsawe outside the Parliament of Victoria at 6:00 pm Friday.
Australians took to social media to mourn the student’s death.
“With the murder of women being continuous in this country, I am done being silent and sad about it. We need to demand better and do it very very loudly with maximum disruption #aiiamaarsawe,” Joanna Nilson said on Twitter.
“It’s time we admitted that Australia is not a safe place for women. #aiiamaarsawe,” she added.
In June 2018, Eurydice Dixon was raped and killed while walking home in Melbourne.
In September 2012, Irish woman Jill Meagher was also raped and murdered in Melbourne while walking home.