News State Victoria Man charged with murder of woman found in Melbourne park
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Man charged with murder of woman found in Melbourne park

Courtney Herron
Courtney Herron (inset) was found dead in Parkville on Saturday. Photo: AAP/Facebook
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A man accused of killing 25-year-old Courtney Herron in a Melbourne park has a “possible delusional disorder”, his lawyer has told a magistrate.

Smiling and sporting a black eye, Henry Hammond, 27, faced Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday, after being charged overnight with murdering Ms Herron, whose body was found in Royal Park on Saturday morning.

The man, of no fixed address, also has a possible autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, lawyer Bernie Balmer told the court as Hammond was remanded in custody until September 16.

“It’s a very tragic and complex situation,” Mr Balmer said outside court after Hammond’s brief appearance.

He told magistrate Donna Bakos that Hammond had a number of issues that would affect him in custody.

“There’s a diagnosis of possible delusional disorder, possible autism spectrum disorder and historical diagnosis of ADHD,” Mr Balmer said.

Hammond has previously taken medication to treat those conditions, including an anti-psychotic prescription.

The magistrate ordered that he undergo a medical assessment.

Dressed in black, and without shoes, Hammond said nothing during the short court appearance.

With one black eye, he looked around the courtroom, sometimes smiling.

Prosecutor Madeleine Sargent originally asked for up to four months for police to compile their brief of evidence against Hammond.

A pathology report is still to be completed and officers are reviewing CCTV footage, she said.

Ms Bakos gave police until August 5 to prepare the documents and ordered that Hammond be remanded in custody until a committal mention on September 16.

The brutal death has again sent shockwaves through a city still reeling from recent incidents of deadly violence against women walking in the inner north, including the rape and murder of a female comedian heading home through a nearby park less than a year ago.

Ms Herron had been couch surfing and sleeping rough for some time while struggling with drug and mental health issues.

Homicide squad Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper said while she had been in sporadic contact with her family there were “a lot of people out there who knew and loved Courtney”.

“When there’s a child that suffered drug use, mental health issues, family relationships can be fragmented,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean that families out there don’t love their children, and you know, our heart breaks for them.

“We are dealing with a heartbroken family again.”

Newly appointed Minister for Women Marise Payne promised women’s safety will get full attention under the Morrison government.

“We have been only too tragically reminded in the last couple of days, again in Melbourne with the appalling murder of Courtney Herron, that the safety of women is something that must concern us all,” she told ABC radio on Monday.

Over the weekend friends and others laid floral tributes at the site where her body was found – just a short distance from Princes Park, where the body of aspiring comedian Eurydice Dixon was found on June 12 last year.

Ms Dixon, 22, was raped and murdered.

Aiia Maasarwe, 21, also died after being attacked while walking home near La Trobe University on January 15.

Both women were attacked by men they did not know and who have since been charged.

Then in April, Natalina Angok’s body was found dumped in Chinatown, allegedly killed by her one-time partner Christopher Allen, who has since been charged.

Family and friends of Ms Herron have been left “heartbroken” by the horrific murder as she was remembered by friends as a “beautiful” and “gorgeous” woman who made everyone laugh.

The sister of Ms Herron’s ex-boyfriend wrote in a social media tribute: “rest easy and peacefully beautiful girl”.

“Taken too soon, leaving so many hearts broken and eyes that have shed rivers of tears,” Nindara Edwards Norris wrote.

Others shared photographs and dropped flowers at a log near where the woman’s body was found in Royal Park.

Detective Inspector Stamper told reporters on Sunday that Ms Herron had suffered an “horrendous bashing”.

“The level of violence involved here was extreme in my view,” Inspector Stamper said.

“This was a particularly, particularly horrendous attack.”

courtney-herron-melbourne-park
Detectives identified the body as Courtney Herron. Photo: Facebook

Detectives believe Ms Herron was beaten to death in Royal Park, in the suburb of Parkville, some time between Friday and 9.25am on Saturday.

Dog walkers made the grim discovery at 9.30am on Saturday. Ms Herron’s body was among trees and shrubs in a part of the park near Elliott Avenue and the North Park Tennis Club, just minutes’ walk from Melbourne Zoo, tram stops, major hospitals and sporting clubs.

Friends turned to social media to share their grief at the loss of Ms Herron, who was described by one friend as a “beautiful soul”.

Flowers left in Royal Park near where Courtney Herron’s body was found. Photo: AAP

Ms Herron did not have a home address at the time of her death, due to personal difficulties, and police are eager to find anyone who may have befriended her or known about her recent movements.

woman-death-melbourne
Forensic investigators examine the crime scene in Royal Park at Parkville. Photo: AAP

Inspector Stamper said Ms Herron had “sporadic contact” with her family, who had been told about her death.

The last confirmed sighting of the 25-year-old was on May 14 at St Albans when she came into contact with police.

Inspector Stamper said Ms Herron had been couch surfing and sleeping rough for some time while struggling with drug and mental health issues.

“It’s very much part of the challenges when there’s a child that’s suffered drug use, mental health issues, the family relationships can be fragmented,” he said.

“But I stress that doesn’t mean that families out there don’t love their children and their hearts break for them.

“We’re dealing with a heartbroken family here again.”

Ms Herron’s death has again raised anger in Melbourne, with police and the Victorian Premier and Police Minister calling for men’s attitudes towards women to change.

courtney-herron-melbourne-body-parkville
Ms Herron had been sleeping rough after battling personal issues. Photo: Victoria Police

“This is a terrible tragedy,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Sunday.

“This is not about the way women behave, this is not about where women are at what hour.

“This is most likely about the behaviour of men.”

The park, near the University of Melbourne and its residential colleges, is one of the city’s busiest by day and used by rough sleepers at night.

The location is less than one kilometre from where, almost exactly a year ago, the body of Melbourne comedian Eurydice Dixon was found on June 13 in Princes Park.

Inspector Stamper earlier said police had spoken to a number of rough sleepers who were in the area of Royal Park on Friday night or the early hours of Saturday.

“They have been helpful with us in building that picture,” he said.

“There’s still a lot of gaps in terms of what actually happened in the park.

Inspector Stamper said his “absolute best people” had been working to catch the perpetrator.

flowers-courtney-herron
A man lays flowers on Sunday at the site where the woman’s body was found. Photo: AAP

Pathologists arrived at the crime scene on Saturday afternoon, while SES crews were expected to join police for a line search. CCTV was also being collected from nearby homes and businesses.

A heavy police presence was expected to continue in the park in the coming days, with mounted police and officers on bikes to patrol the area.

Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said despite a number of random attacks on women in Melbourne in recent history, the city remains one of the safest in Australia and the world.

“This has come as an awful shock not only to the community but also to the local police here,” Mr Cornelius said.

“Women and men are absolutely entitled, and should feel safe, to go about their normal day-to-day activities.”

The discovery of Ms Dixon’s body last year led to a ‘Reclaim the Night’ vigil where more than 10,000 people gathered to pay their respects to the young comedian.

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Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au

-with AAP