Vigil calls for end to 'epidemic violence against women' after Aiia Maasarwe's murder

A series of gatherings will take place across Melbourne on Friday to pay tribute to another young woman lost to violence.

Tonight, hundreds of people draped in black will sit silently on the Victorian parliament steps before packing the 86 tram full of flowers and candles - a moving tribute to 21-year-old Aiia Maasarwe, who was killed in a suspected random attack on her way home from a comedy show on Wednesday

Hours after Victorian Police confirmed her identity, tributes popped up on social media, offering places for Melbourne residents to come together and reflect on the latest horrific event to plague the city.

'Keeping Silent Vigil' is inviting people to gather on the steps of Parliament at 6pm to "honour the lives of women and children so brutally ended by male violence".

Aiia Maasarwe (left) was found dead in Melbourne on Wednesday. Police are treating her death as suspicious.
Source: Facebook

Co-organiser Jessamy Gleeson, who was also involved in organising the vigil for Eurydice Dixon last year, said she was "shattered and heartbroken" to be organising another event just six months later.

In June last year, thousands of people gathered in Princes Park to mourn the death of the 22-year-old comedian, who was also killed on her way home from a show. 

"There are a lot of things that need to change... and a lot of these changes can start with the government itself and the choices they choose to make," she said.

"We want women to be safe and be able to walk home without being attacked."

The event will be conducted in complete silence, without speakers, microphones or music.

"We know people will want to make speeches, and want to get angry and those are all things that we actively support outside of this and I will be there with everyone else," she said.

Thousands of people gathered in June last year following the murder of 22-year-old comedian Eurydice Dixon in Melbourne.
Source: AAP

"But when we are there in response to one particular act and one woman's life has been lost... we would encourage people to sit and reflect on why they are there and we think silence is a really powerful way to do that."

After the vigil, Melbourne resident Nicole Eckersley has called on people to ride the 86 tram - the one Ms Maasarwe rode shortly before she was killed - from Parliament house to Bundoora, where her body was found.

"Maybe the tram had a bit of a part to play in her death... if there had been better CCTV or a conductor or something then there's a possibility that what happened to her wouldn't have happened," she said.

"We need to be doing everything we can as a society to make sure this thing doesn't happen."

She encourages people who cannot make the vigil to join the tram at their closest stop.

People pay tribute to Aiia Maasarwe, who was killed on her way home from a comedy show in Melbourne.
Source: AAP

Ms Maasarwe, who was a Palestinian Arab of Israeli citizenship, was in Victoria as an international student at La Trobe University. Fellow students have labelled her a "beautiful girl" and have organised a tribute to take place at the campus on Friday.

Recent La Trobe University graduate Kelsey Wilson, who is also 21, said the tragedy "hit really close to home".

"I've been living in the area for three years now, and the amount of times we've walked late at night right past there and even in the area [Bundoora], for that to happen is absolutely horrible," she said. 

"It's not a one-off, it's happened a million times before.

"It's important to show this isn't okay, let's all stand together and number one pay our respects to whoever has had to suffer through these horrible attacks but let's say this is not on and we are all going to support each other."

Ms Wilson has organised for people to line up along Plenty Road, near where Ms Maasarwe was killed, on Tuesday night to "light the way home for Aiia".

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

Victoria's homicide squad confirmed on Thursday that Ms Maasarwe was on the phone to her sister, who was overseas, at the time she was attacked shortly after midnight. A passerby located her body on Main Drive, near Plenty Road, at about 7am.

"She heard the sound of the fall, the phone falling to the ground and heard some voices and that was it," Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper said.

He refused to comment on the nature of the assault but said it was a "horrendous, horrific attack" and called on the community to help police find the 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."

Pictures released on Thursday show a black cap and grey and black T-shirt police say belonged to the perpetrator.Extra police will be stationed in the area over the next few days as the local community struggles to make sense of the shocking crime. 

Police have released CCTV images of Aiia Maasarwe   shortly before she was attacked and items believed to belong to the killer.
Source: Victoria Police

"It's not something that people can turn around and say 'well she was asking for it', it's an unassailable piece of absolute heartbreak," said Ms Eckersley. 

"It's a complete loss."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the murder a "shocking, despicable and tragic attack".

"My heart goes out to Aiia's family and friends and everyone whose life she touched. An incredibly shocking, despicable and tragic attack," Mr Morrison wrote on Twitter on Friday.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews also said his condolences, condemning "this culture of violence against women".

Published 17 January 2019 at 11:29pm, updated 18 January 2019 at 12:17pm
By Maani Truu