18 Jan 2019

Man arrested over killing of exchange student Aiia Maasarwe in Australia

8:32 pm on 18 January 2019

A 20-year-old man has been arrested over the murder of 21-year-old Aiia Maasarwe, whose body was found near a tram stop in north Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday.

Victoria police have released CCTV images of Aiia Maasarwe which shows the clothing she was wearing that night, in the hope someone saw her on the night and can help police track her exact movements.

CCTV images of Aiia Maasarwe which shows the clothing she was wearing the night she was killed. Photo: Supplied / Victoria Police

Ms Maasarwe was studying at La Trobe University as part of a one-year exchange program and was on her way home from a night out at a comedy club when she was attacked.

Her body was behind a hedge outside a nearby shopping centre in the suburb of Bundoora, about 100m from the tram stop.

Victoria Police said in a statement the man was arrested in the adjacent suburb of Greensborough about 11:20am (Melbourne Time) on Friday.

"The arrest follows an extensive investigation into Aiia's death following the discovery of her body near Main Drive and Plenty Road in Bundoora," the statement said.

Police described Ms Maasarwe's killing as horrific, but said they would not detail her injuries out of respect to her family.

"This was an absolutely horrendous, horrific attack inflicted on a completely innocent young woman who was a visitor to our city," Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper said yesterday.

Police said they would "saturate" the area where Ms Maasarwe was killed until her attacker was found, in a bid to calm rising community fears about safety.

They believe she was attacked just after midnight on Wednesday morning, shortly after getting off the tram.

Ms Maasarwe was on the phone to her younger sister at the time.

"[Her sister] heard everything over the phone," their uncle Abed Kittani told the ABC.

"She heard the cars passing by and she was helpless, she couldn't do anything. She started sending her messages and there was no response.

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

Ms Maasarwe's family told the ABC she had been in Melbourne for about five months and was a clever, funny and adventurous woman with a gift for learning languages.

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

Her father, Saeed Maasarwe, has visited the site where she was killed after flying to Melbourne from China to identify her body and arrange for her return to Israel.

He says he prays his daughter is in a better place.

Ms Maasarwe's exchange to La Trobe was part of a larger business degree she was undertaking at China's Shanghai University.

Described as intelligent, funny and gifted in learning new languages, Ms Maasarwe planned to use her degree to work alongside her father, who runs a business in Guangzhou.

Ms Maasarwe's family said she had loved her first few months of adventures in Australia, and her Instagram account shows she had immersed herself in her new home, with trips to the Grampians National Park among her most recent travels.

Her account is headlined with the words "the best is yet to come".