Victoria Police has vowed to not rest until the person responsible for the “horrendous, horrific” killing of a 21-year-old woman is off the streets, while a senator has been slammed for openly sharing graphic details of the crime on social media.
Police gave an emotional press conference on Thursday afternoon over the slaying of Aiia Maasarwe, an Israeli exchange student studying in Melbourne, whose body was found near a shopping centre in the northern Melbourne suburb of Bundoora on Wednesday morning.
While police openly said they did not wish to reveal the extent of Ms Maasarwe’s assault injuries out of respect to her family, radio commentator-turned-politician Derryn Hinch took to the social media platform Twitter to reveal his knowledge of unconfirmed, horrific injuries.
Senator Hinch was swiftly chastised for what most commenters saw as insensitivity towards the family. Responses ranged from politely asking Senator Hinch to remove the post, to accusing him of using the tragedy to increase his profile.
“This is totally irresponsible and contemptible,” Twitter user Julieanne Wagner wrote. “Aiia Maasarwe’s family deserve better than this.”
“If you have any respect for Aiia please delete the tweet and apologise to those who loved her.”
By Friday morning the post had not been removed.
Senator Hinch had responded to several commenters, standing firm on his decision to publish the information. In one response, he brazenly said he would’ve shared photos of the scene if he had access to them.
The New Daily chose not to publish the graphic contents of the senator’s post.
In a follow-up statement Senator Hinch said he shared the information, which has not been confirmed by police, “for the memory of Jill Meagher and Eurydice Dixon”, two Melbourne women violently killed by male perpetrators.
A ‘horrendous, horrific’ killing
At a press conference earlier on Thursday police revealed the heartbreaking final moments of Ms Maasarwe’s life: she was on the phone when she was attacked.
Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper said Ms Maasarwe had just alighted the 86 tram, and was speaking to her sister, who was overseas.
“Sadly, her sister was talking to her on the phone,” Detective Inspector Stamper said.
“The phone then appeared to fall to the ground and she couldn’t contact her. We think that’s the time.
“She heard the sound of the phone falling to the ground and heard some voices and that was it.”
When her sister could not re-establish contact, she alerted police.
Her body was found about 7am less than 50 metres from the tram stop by passers-by.
Police also used the press conference to release images of clothing found near the crime scene, which they strongly believe was shirked off by the killer in the aftermath of the attack – a black cap emblazoned with ‘1986’, and a light grey t-shirt with dark sleeves.
Detective Inspector Stamper said the clothing – and the help of the community – were key to finding Ms Maasarwe’s killer.
“Someone has come home on Tuesday night, or the early hours of Wednesday morning, maybe with blood on them, missing items of clothing, somebody knows about this and we need help.
“We’re … desperate for anyone in the community that may know anyone who was wearing or owns these items of clothing, to contact Crime Stoppers as a matter of urgency.
“We need someone in the community who knows something about this, and we need them to be accountable for this … for actually delivering this person to us, or information about them, so we can get this person off the streets.
“That is our priority. That is what we’re absolutely fixed on and we won’t stop until we achieve that.”
Victoria Police’s Acting Superintendent for the North West Metro Region, Tony Ryan, said police were going to “saturate the area” where she was killed “as much as we possibly can”.
“We’ve got uniform cars, we’re supported by the operational response unit, we’ve got detectives, we’ve got our community police, we’ve got transit working on the tram lines.
“As part of our security in the area we’ll conduct an audit on it and see if we can get some immediate improvements,” Superintendent Ryan told the ABC.
Ms Maasarwe was returning home from The Comic’s Lounge on Errol Street in North Melbourne when she was attacked.
CCTV footage shows she was wearing a white t-shirt with black lettering, a black dress and white shoes, carrying a black backpack.
Death sparks vigils
A service will be held on the steps of the Victorian parliament on Friday night for Ms Maasarwe, with people to wear black and remain silent in protest against male harm towards women.
“Women’s lives are important and they matter and we can’t keep watching as women are murdered by men,” event organiser and feminist writer Karen Pickering said.
“Aiia Maasarwe was like so many other women and girls – she was out meeting friends, exploring the city, taking in shows – she should’ve been able to do that safely.
“Aiia’s death is part of an epidemic of male violence against women.”
It will be the start of a series of demonstrations to be held every time a woman is killed by a man in a bid show respect to the fallen, she added.
Mourners will then fill the 8.01pm route 86 tram towards Bundoora with flowers before organisers of another social media group take them to her makeshift memorial.
“If you can’t attend the vigil, we encourage you to wait at your nearest 86 tram stop with a candle,” the event states, noting red roses were one of her favourite flowers.
A tribute will be held earlier in the day at La Trobe University in Bundoora while another event is planned on Tuesday at the shopping centre, near where she was killed.
Police are hoping to speak to anyway who was in the area of Main Drive and Plenty Road, and the Polaris Shopping Centre, between 11pm on Tuesday and 1am on Thursday – particularly any motorists who may have dash cam footage from the area.
They are also calling on any passengers on the 86 tram to come forward.
Anyone with any information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report online at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au