Australia

Man charged over murder of Aiia Maasarwe as mourners pay tribute

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A man has faced court after being charged with the murder of international student Aiia Maasarwe.

A 20-year-old man has been charged with one count of murder and one count of rape over the death of international student Aiia Maasarwe.

Codey Herrmann, 20, briefly faced Melbourne Magistrates Court on Saturday wearing a green t-shirt as he sat with his head lowered in the dock.

Codey Herrmann attends the Melbourne Magistrates Court.
Codey Herrmann attends the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

The self-described aspiring rapper was arrested in Greensborough on Friday about 11.20am but a police charge sheet states he has "nil fixed place of abode".

His arrest follows an extensive investigation into Aiia's death after the discovery of her body near Main Drive and Plenty Road in Bundoora on Wednesday, January 16 about 7am.

Ms Maasarwe, 21, got off a route 86 tram only moments before she was attacked late the previous evening.

Herrmann is alleged to have assaulted and killed her at the same location, the court was told on Saturday.

The particulars of the rape charge have not been released, with the court told some of the "specific words" aren't yet known to the family.

A mental health assessment has also been requested for Herrmann.

He made no bail application and has been remanded in custody to appear in the same court on Monday.

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Aiia Maasarwe's heartbroken father arrives in Bundoora
Aiia Maasarwe's heartbroken father arrives in Bundoora

PM offers condolences to father

Earlier on Saturday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his family visited the Melbourne memorial for the 21-year-old Arab-Israeli woman.

Mr Morrison stopped by the site by a shopping centre car park at Bundoora on Saturday.

"Earlier today, with Jen and the girls, we visited the Polaris Town Centre at Bundoora with other families and fellow Australians to pay our respects and grieve the loss of Aiia," he tweeted.

"Later today I will meet with her father. I cannot imagine his loss."

'She loved this city'

At a vigil in Melbourne on Friday night, Ms Maasarwe's emotional father welcomed news of the arrest and revealed details of his ever-smiling daughter.

"She loved this city and the [La Trobe] university ... very much," Saeed Maasarwe told reporters as he visited the site where his daughter's body was found on Wednesday.

Aiia Maasarwe's father Saeed Maasarwe at the vigil for his daughter in Melbourne on Friday.
Aiia Maasarwe's father Saeed Maasarwe at the vigil for his daughter in Melbourne on Friday.
AAP

"I had a plan to come at the end of January ... to be together with her for vacation with her sister, the older sister, to be with her for two weeks or 10 days.

"We want to go to many places here in Australia."

Mr Maasarwe travelled to Australia after the news his daughter, a Palestinian Arab of Israeli citizenship, had been found dead in the Melbourne northern suburb of Bundoora following a night out with friends.

"She is all the time smiling. She loved people. She had very big opinions, her mind open for everything," Mr Maasarwe said of Aiia.

Aiia Maasarwe.
Aiia Maasarwe had planned to spend a year studying in Melbourne.
Supplied

"She liked to study different cultures, different nationalities."

Detectives said she suffered a "horrific" assault.

The man accused in connection with the fatal attack is a self-described aspiring songwriter and rapper who has multiple social media accounts featuring posts about drugs, Aboriginal people and depression.

"Suicidal thoughts yeah, I've walked the line. The real fight was keeping all the demons in my mind on the inside," he rapped in a song posted to a website three months ago.

Piles of flowers lay in tribute where the body of Aiia Maasarwe was found near the Polaris Shopping centre in Bundoora, Melbourne.
Piles of flowers lay in tribute where the body of Aiia Maasarwe was found near the Polaris Shopping centre in Bundoora, Melbourne.
AAP

Murder condemned by political leaders

Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the death as the "most despicable of crimes".

"Every woman in Australia, every person in Australia, should be able to travel home in safety," he told reporters.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews also expressed his sadness.

"She should have been safe here. And I am heartbroken she wasn't," Mr Andrews tweeted.

The first in a number of planned vigils for Ms Maasarwe was held on Friday at La Trobe University, where she attended college.

Community support eases suffering, father says

Mr Maasarwe waited until the crowds had left to inspect the tribute to his daughter - a framed photograph surrounded by candles and flowers.

"I feel very sad from one side but from another side when I hear this support and this help from the people, from the community, from the police, this is makes the suffer feel at least a little more better," he said.

Mr Maasarwe also attended another vigil at Melbourne's Parliament House on Friday where he sat among the hundreds gathered, wiping tears and holding a candle lit for his daughter.

The site where the body of Aiia Maasarwe was found is surrounded by mourners and flowers in Bundoora.
The site where the body of Aiia Maasarwe was found is surrounded by mourners and flowers in Bundoora.
AAP

"We appreciate all the people, the community here. It is really helpful, support it," he told reporters, saying she'd always see the good in a bad situation.

"She enjoyed, she had a good time here but then this has come, the very worst. The most worst it can be."

Ms Maasarwe's death is not the first time Victoria has been left reeling by such a tragedy.

It follows the murder of aspiring comedian Eurydice Dixon, 22, last year and previously the deaths of Masa Vukotic, 17, and Jill Meagher, 29.

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