Palestinian student murdered in Australia in 'horrendous attack'

Palestinian student murdered in Australia in 'horrendous attack'
3 min read
17 January, 2019
Aiia Maasarwe, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was speaking on her phone when she was murdered in Australia.
Aiia was travelling back from a comedy attack when she was killed [Photo: Melbourne Police]
An Palestinian student was murdered in Australia while she was making a video call to her sister, in what police described on Thursday as an "horrific attack".

Police are trying to track down the killer of 21-year-old Aiia Maasarwe, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, whose body was found early on Wednesday near the campus of Melbourne's LaTrobe University, where she was taking part in an exchange programme.

"Her sister was on the phone with her, she was on FaceTime, and she heard what happened," her uncle Rame Masarwe told media. "The phone has fallen down, but she heard the voices over the phone."

Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper said that her sister contacted police once she became aware of what happened. Maasarwe had been on her way home from a night out at a comedy club.

"This was a horrendous, horrific attack inflicted on a completely innocent young woman who was a visitor to our city," Stamper told reporters in Melbourne Thursday.

"[Her sister] heard the sound of the phone falling to the ground and heard some voices," Stamper said.

Her body was found on Wednesday morning by passers-by at 7am about 50 metres (165 feet) from a tram stop.

Police said that the possibility of sex offenders being involved in the murder was an "active line of enquiry".

Officers released images of some clothing found at the scene which they believe were worn by the attacker, describing it as "very distressing". 

This included a black-and-grey shirt and black hat with "1986" printed on it.

"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," said Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper in a statement.

"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."

Images were also released of Maasarwe - who was described as a "happy", "adventurous" and "smart" student - shortly before the attack.

Maasarwe was reportedly planning to go to China to work with her father's business after her studies.

Police said they were "confident" of finding the perpetrator.

The Israeli embassy confirmed Maasarwe's death in a statement.

"With deep sadness we confirm that the body of Aiia Maasarwe, an Israeli citizen, was found in Melbourne on Wednesday. The Australian authorities are currently investigating the circumstances of her death... 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."