Israeli student found dead near Melbourne tram stop

Publish Date
Thursday, 17 January 2019, 4:22p.m.
Aia Masarwe, 21, has been named as the woman found dead near a tram stop in Melbourne. Photo / Facebook


A young woman found dead near a tram stop in Melbourne's north has been named as an Israeli student aged in her 20s.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz named the student as Aia Masarwe, 21, who was in Melbourne on a study programme and was understood to have been on her way home from a comedy show when she was killed.

According to her social media pages, the talented student had been studying Chinese and English at Shanghai University, and then spent several months in Melbourne on an overseas programme at La Trobe University, reports.

Israeli student Aia Masarwe, left, was in Melbourne on a study programme. Photo / Facebook
Israeli student Aia Masarwe, left, was in Melbourne on a study programme. Photo / Facebook

Passers-by discovered a body in scrub near a tram stop close to a shopping centre at Bundoora on Wednesday morning — and homicide detectives believe she may have been stalked in the lead-up to her death.

Disturbingly, Ms Masarwe uncle, Rame Masarwe, said Aia was speaking to her sister over the phone until "her phone fell" on the night she was killed.

"She was talking to her sister and seemed okay, but then her phone fell and then she heard different voices," Mr Masarwe told the Herald Sun.

Masarwe's friends also became worried when she stopped responding to messages on their WhatsApp group.

Police are investigating whether the attack was random or not. Photo /
Police are investigating whether the attack was random or not. Photo /

Detectives say it is likely Ms Masarwe had been travelling on the route 86 tram from Docklands overnight.

"We are treating it as suspicious. It's apparent or it seems that the female has been assaulted," Inspector Andrew Stamper told reporters near the scene on Wednesday.

Another of Ms Masarwe's uncles, Abed Katane, told Israeli news outlet Haaretz her family was in shock.

"She was an excellent student, full of life, and was in a country that was not dangerous at all, to say the least. And despite that, we get this incredibly painful news," he said.

"It's the kind of thing you never expect."

Her father has left Israel for Melbourne in a bid to arrange her body's return home, Mr Katane told the newspaper.

Tributes have been laid in Bundoora. Photo /
Tributes have been laid in Bundoora. Photo /

Israeli media reports that Ms Masarwe was from Baqa al-Gharbiyye, a predominantly Arab city in the Haifa district in northern Israel.

Her uncle, Rame, told The Age the talented student was a friendly person who liked to travel — adding that she had done tandem skydive along the Great Ocean Road and visited local sites including the Shrine of Remembrance.

Her final Instagram post, uploaded on January 7, shows her sitting on a ledge overlooking Vicoria's Grampians National Park.

"She's positive, she likes to have fun, she's a very friendly person you know. She's a good sister," he said. "I was very proud of her, she was a very good person, a very loving person.

"She liked to discover new things, see new places. She travelled all over the world."

Flowers and handwritten tributes have been left by mourners at the scene of the tragic discovery.

One note read: "My heart aches that you were not safe in our community. You are loved."

"Everyone has the right to get home safety," another read.

Officers are expected speak with residents today to determine how Ms Masarwe died and what led to her body being left near the tram stop.

"We would ask for anyone that may have dashcam footage, CCTV or may have seen anything here that could be a small piece in the jigsaw puzzle to contact [us]," Inspector Stamper said.

Detectives are keen to speak to anyone who travelled on the route 86 tram, particularly between 11pm on Tuesday and 1am on Wednesday.

Police are investigating all lines of inquiry, including whether the attack was random and if Ms Masarwe was followed.

— with wires

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