Aiia Maasarwe death: Israeli student murdered while talking to sister from Melbourne, Australia as she walked home. A vicious target of sexual assault?
Australian authorities have revealed a 21 year old Israeli exchange student having been murdered while talking with her sister on Facebook FaceTime.
The body of Aiia Maasarwe was found by passers-by early Wednesday near Melbourne‘s La Trobe University’s Bundoora.
‘This is an absolutely horrendous, horrific attack that has been inflicted on an innocent member of our community,’ Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper told during a Thursday press corps meeting.
‘Our presumption is that this was a random attack and opportunistic,’ he added.
Maasarwe, who was five months into a year-long exchange at LaTrobe, was riding a tram home from a comedy show when she was ambushed about midnight near the Polaris town center Melbourne’s The Age newspaper reported.
At the time of the attack, Maasarwe was on the phone with her sister back in Israel and less than a kilometer from where she was staying.
‘(Her sister) heard the sound of the phone falling to the ground and heard some voices,’ said Stamper, who would not say whether a weapon had been used.
‘Nothing in the victim’s background indicates this was anyone known to her. So yes, unfortunately, the presumption at this stage is this was a random and opportunistic attack,’ Stamper added.
Aiia Maasarwe murder: Victim of sexual assault?
Known sex offenders in the area are an ‘active line of inquiry,’ the official added.
Police investigators say Maasarwe was found partially clad, with her belongings – sandals, a cell phone, book and water bottle – lying nearby.
Retrieved was a black baseball cap engraved with the number ‘1986’ and a two-tone gray T-shirt which investigators believe was worn by the assailant at the crime scene, which they described as ‘very distressing.’
The crime has since led to wide disconcert in the normally safe Melbourne as well as across Israel.
‘Someone in the community knows about this. Someone has gone home on Tuesday night, or in the early hours of Wednesday morning, maybe with blood on them, missing items of clothing. Somebody knows about this,’ Stamper said.
Maasarwe’s father arrived from Israel early Thursday to identify her body, according to The Age.
‘We have a grieving family who had to fly halfway across the world under the most horrific circumstances and we want to be able to give them some answers,’ Stamper said.
The Israeli embassy expressed its condolences to Maasarwe’s family.
‘We express our heartfelt condolences to Aiia’s family and stand ready to support them during this time as our consul works to return her body home to Israel for burial,’ it said in a statement.
A La Trobe University rep said the community was ‘shocked and saddened by this appalling crime.’
‘The safety and well-being of our students and staff is of paramount importance and we are providing every possible support following this tragic incident,’ the spokeswoman said.
Update: Police release images of 21 year old Israeli student – Aiia Maasarwe. She caught the tram home from Bourke Street. Her killer’s hat and T Shirt was found at the scene @9NewsMelb pic.twitter.com/BHBQsvKdRx
— Neary Ty (@NearyTy_9) January 17, 2019
Aiia Maasarwe murder: Isn’t it suppose to be safe in Australia for women?
Maasarwe, who grew up in Baqa al-Gharbiyye – a predominantly Arab city between Tel Aviv and Haifa — had studied Chinese and English at Shanghai University before arriving in Australia.
Her uncle Rame Maasarwe, who lives in the US, said his niece loved to travel.
‘She’s positive, she likes to have fun, she’s a very friendly person you know. She’s a good sister,’ he told The Age. ‘I was very proud of her, she was a very good person, a very loving person.’
‘I can’t believe that something like this has happened in Australia. It’s not safe there in Australia? In Melbourne? It’s not safe?’ the uncle added. ‘We think America is dangerous, not Australia.’
Another uncle, Abed Katane, told Israeli newspaper Haaretz that the family was in shock.
‘It’s not the type of thing you expect,’ Katane said. ‘She was an excellent student, full of life. She wasn’t in a very dangerous country at all, and yet we are still receiving such a painful message.’
Dozens of locals visited the crime scene Thursday to place flowers and remember the young woman who recently posted shots of her first sunrise of 2019, as well as Australian waterfalls.
On Instagram, she described her wanderlust in her profile by writing: ‘The best is yet to come.’
Aiia’s murder has since led to social media commentators wondering how safe their city is, especially for women, while others, including this author wondered to what degree Aiia’s murder was predicated on rampant drug abuse in Melbourne and the nation’s penchant for patriarchal and limiting views of women as ‘sex objects’ – while others wonder if racism played a role?
Today I cry for you Aiia Maasarwe ❤️😥 pic.twitter.com/PDYbQ08Twg
— Dale KERR (@DaleKerr) January 17, 2019
I always thought talking on the phone is one way to feel safe or deter attackers. Clearly not. Poor Aiia Maasarwe 😞
— Jennifer (@JenniferGrey7) January 17, 2019
I’ve been trying to say something about Aiia Maasarwe and I can’t find the words. I’m so sad. And so angry. And I can’t stop thinking about her poor family, so far away. But mostly I’m angry.
— Isy with one ‘s’ (@yodaberg) January 17, 2019
Aiia Maasarwe took public transport, talked on her phone, knew the area and was close to home, she was between a 24-hour service station, a shopping centre, a row of townhouses, a major road and intersection and she was still murdered. How far do we have to go to stay safe?
— Karen Sweeney (@karenlsweeney) January 17, 2019
Aiia Maasarwe was not killed in a random attack in Melbourne. It was a racist attack. Racial profiling in the media spreads untrue beliefs and causes issues like these.
— Amberi (@amberryyy) January 17, 2019
Aiia Maasarwe, I am sorry you came to our country on a new adventure, ready to learn, live and enjoy life and someone so cruelly snatched that away from you.
Australia is better than that. You should have been safe and I’m so sorry that you weren’t. It’s unforgivable.
— 🇦🇺 Katie 🥂 (@ktdenise) January 17, 2019