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Police have released images of clothing they believe belong to the killer of a 21-year-old woman, in a bid to draw out witnesses, saying they “won’t stop” until they get the person responsible off the streets.
The body of Israeli national Aiia Maasarwe was found in the northern Melbourne suburb of Bundoora about 7am on Wednesday.
Victoria Police on Thursday afternoon held a press conference to release CCTV images of Ms Maasarwe on the night before the deadly attack.
They also released images of a cap and a T-shirt found near the crime scene, which police say is highly likely to belong to the killer.
Police said she was on the phone to her sister at the time she was attacked.
“Sadly, her sister was talking to her on the phone,” Detective Inspector Andrew 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.”
This was shortly after midnight. Her sister repeatedly tried to call her back.
Ms Maasarwe was assaulted before she was killed, but police will not reveal the extent of her injuries out of respect to her family.
Detective Inspector Stamper said information from the public was likely to prove crucial in this investigation.
“There will be someone out there who has seen a person wearing this clothing, and we really need them to come forward and provide us with that information,” Detective Inspector Stamper said.
“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.
“If you have information about the identity of this person then I urge you to tell us.
“We have a grieving family who has had to fly halfway across the world under the most horrific circumstances and we want to be able to give them some answers.
“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.
“I think the answers are in the community.
“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.”
Police say it appears the student was attacked after attending The Comic’s Lounge on Errol Street in North Melbourne earlier in the night and catching the 86 tram from a Bourke Street stop.
Police on Thursday further released CCTV footage that showed the clothing Ms Maasarwe was wearing that night: A white T-shirt with black lettering on the front, a black dress and white shoes, and was also wearing a black backpack.
The exact circumstances surrounding her death are yet to be determined, however items found close to her body could prove key to finding her attacker.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Ms Maasarwe was studying at Shanghai University, and spent the past several months in Melbourne on a study-abroad program, according to her uncle Abed Katane.
Her father has arrived in Melbourne from Israel in a bid to co-ordinate her body’s return home, Mr Katane told the newspaper.
Investigations are ongoing
Police and the SES are again conducting a line search of the area on Thursday.
A police presence and patrols have been beefed up in the area to reassure the community.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said it was a tragedy.
“That is a part of my own electorate and I know that tram line very well,” she said.
“As a government, we will do whatever is required to support this woman’s family and friends and I extend my sympathy to her family and friends at this terrible, terrible time.”
Officers are expected to further canvass nearby residents on Thursday to determine how Ms Maasarwe died and what led to her body being left near the tram stop.
“We would ask for anyone that may have dashcam footage, CCTV or may have seen anything here that could be a small piece in the jigsaw puzzle to contact Crime Stoppers,” Inspector Stamper said.
Detectives are keen to speak to anyone who travelled on the route 86 tram, particularly between 11pm on Tuesday and 1am on Wednesday.
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
MAP: The woman’s body was found near the Polaris shopping centre in Bundoora, in Melbourne’s north.