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Man arrested over murder that shocked Melbourne

Israeli exchange student was attacked as she was walking home and speaking to her sister on the phone

Two women stand at a floral tribute to murdered Israeli student Aiia Maasarwe in Melbourne on January 18, 2019. AAP Image via AP)
Two women stand at a floral tribute to murdered Israeli student Aiia Maasarwe in Melbourne on January 18, 2019. AAP Image via AP)

Australian police arrested a man Friday for questioning over the murder of an Israeli student, while the victim's tearful father visited the flower-strewn crime scene in Melbourne where her body was found.

Aiia Maasarwe was slain at 12.10am on Wednesday shortly after she got off a tram in the Melbourne suburb of Bundoora.

A 20-year-old was taken into custody on Friday morning in the neighbouring suburb of Greensborough, a police statement said. Police did not say if any charges have been filed.

The 21-year-old victim was studying at La Trobe University in Melbourne as an exchange student from Shanghai University in China.

Her father Saeed Maasarve arrived in Melbourne on Thursday to bring her body home. He cried Friday when he saw an impromptu floral memorial arranged by members of the public at the site where her body was found behind a hedge not far from the tram stop.

"This is the last place my daughter — was here," the father told reporters. "I had many dreams to be with her."

Police have not detailed the attack on Maasarwe, which they assume was random and opportunistic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed that she had been raped before her body was discarded.

"I just want to begin by saying how devastated I am by the despicable, tragic and violent killing and rape of Aiia Maasarwe," Mr Morrison told reporters in Fiji.

"Every woman in Australia — every person in Australia — should be able to travel home in safety. I can't begin to think of what I could say to her family," he said.

"We must remain vigilant ... I'm so sickened by the attack and frankly disturbed by it, as I'm sure Australians are all around the country."

Mr Morrison said his centre-right coalition government would announce another "action plan" to stem violence against women ahead of an election expected by May, on top of A$350 million (Dh924m) that has already been committed.

Maasarwe's uncle, Abed Kittani, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Maasarve was speaking by phone to a younger sister when she was attacked.

"She heard the cars passing by and she was helpless, she couldn't do anything," Mr Kittani said of the sister. The sister sent messages, but there was no response.

"Instead of coming home with a diploma, she is coming back in a coffin," he said.

Another uncle, Rame Maasarwe, said: "We cannot believe that something like this happened in Australia; we think it's very safe there."

Maasarwe grew up in Baqa Al Gharbiyye, a mostly Arab city in the Haifa district of Israel, before moving to China to study at Shanghai University. Her father had a business in China, Australian media reported.

She was the second woman killed in similar circumstances in Melbourne in seven months.

Her death has recharged outrage over violence against women after 22-year-old Eurydice Dixon was killed while walking home after performing at a comedy show in June.

The deaths have fuelled a growing sense of frustration, particularly from women who say they are already vigilant and that men have to take responsibility for their own behaviour as well as challenging the views and actions of other men.

"Nothing will change until we change, too. Until we stop blaming 'bad men' - while ignoring the sexist attitudes in our society that created them," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

The Melbourne community organised a vigil outside Victoria state parliament. Later Friday, a tram carrying only flowers will depart from there following the route of her final journey.

"Tonight, on the steps of parliament, Victorians will gather to remember Aiia Maasarwe. Positive. Fun. 'The kindest girl.' A 21-year-old just making her way in the world, with her whole life ahead of her. A student on her way home after a comedy show with friends," Mr Andrews tweeted.

Updated: January 18, 2019 11:51 AM



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