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Australia police arrest suspect in murder of Israeli student

Police released these images of Aiia Maasarwe, taken on the night she was killed near Melbourne, Australia on 16 January, 2019.
Victoria Police
The 21-year-old was killed on the way home from a comedy show in Melbourne just after midnight Wednesday

Australia police on Friday arrested a man in relation to the murder of Israeli student Aiia Maasarwe, some two days after her body was found in Melbourne.

The 21-year-old was killed on the way home from a comedy show in Melbourne just after midnight on Wednesday, with her partially naked body found in bushes near a tram stop by passers-by several hours later.

Aiia was facetiming with her sister as she got off the tram, during which her sister heard the beginning of the brutal assault that has horrified the local population and led to increased calls for government action to protect women.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed police suspicions that she had been raped.

"I just want to begin by saying how devastated I am by the despicable, tragic and violent killing and rape of Aiia Maasarwe," the prime minister told reporters.

"Every woman in Australia every person in Australia should be able to travel home in safety. I can't begin to think of what I could say to her family."

A 20-year-old man from the outer suburbs of Melbourne was arrested at 11.20am Friday, police said.

According to local media reports, the arrested man was identified as Codey Herrmann, an aspiring rapper.

James Ross/AAP Image via AP

"Homicide Squad detectives have arrested a man as part of the ongoing investigation into the death of Aiia Maasarwe," Victoria Police said in a statement. They described the murder as a "horrendous, horrific attack".

Maasarwe, who was reportedly five months into a year-long exchange at Melbourne's LaTrobe University, was riding a tram home from a comedy club to the northern suburb of Bundoora before she was met by her attacker around midnight.

She was talking on the phone with her sister, who was overseas and raised the alarm after something went awry mid-conversation, police said.

"(Her sister) heard the sound of the phone falling to the ground and heard some voices," Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper told reporters.

Members of Aiia's family told The Australian that the 21-year-old was so scared of the walk from the tram stop to her home that she would often call one of her sisters while walking alone.

Campaigners on Friday called for an end to the "epidemic of violence against women" ahead of a vigil in memory Maasarwe.

Australian Premier Dan Andrews expressed his condolences over the loss, and called on Australians to "unite in determination" to "end this culture of violence against women."

Several memorials are to be held on Friday, including one where mourners dressed in black will hold a silent vigil on the steps of the Victorian state parliament.Ellen Smith/AAP Image via AP

Another memorial plans to fill the 86 tram, which Maasarwe was believed to have ridden on her way home, with red roses that were reportedly her favorite flowers.

Some of the organisers were the same ones who organised a vigil for Eurydice Dixon, a 22-year-old local comedian who was killed in a Melbourne park last year as she was going home.

"We're as angry as we were last time," organiser Jessamy Gleeson told Melbourne's Herald Sun on Friday, adding more needed to be done to keep women safe.

"We shouldn't have these one-off vigils. There needs to be continued engagement and conversation about violence against women."

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison took to Twitter on Friday, calling the crime "an incredibly shocking, despicable and tragic attack".

"My heart goes out to Aiia's family and friends and everyone whose life she touched."

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