CANBERRA: Australian police arrested a man on Friday for questioning over the death 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 Maasarwe arrived in Melbourne on Thursday to bring her body home. He cried on Friday when 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,” 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 added.
Her uncle, Abed Kittani, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that Maasarwe was speaking on phone to a younger sister when she was attacked.
“She heard the cars passing by and she was helpless, she couldn’t do anything,” 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,” Kittani said.
Another uncle, Rame Maasarwe, said: “We cannot believe that something like this happened in Australia” we think it’s very safe there.”
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,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews tweeted.