A Melbourne man who was arrested in connection with the murder of an Israeli university student in the city was identified by Australian media Friday as Codey Herrmann, a 20-year-old aspiring rap artist who went to school just minutes from where Aiia Maasarwe’s body was found.
Maasarwe, 21, was killed on the way home from a comedy show in Melbourne just after midnight Tuesday. Her body was found in bushes near a tram stop by passers-by several hours later on Wednesday morning.
She was attacked while she was speaking on the phone with her sister. Maasarwe was from Baqa al-Gharbiya in northern Israel, a predominantly Arab city.
Police, who have described the attack as “horrific,” arrested Herrmann in the outer suburbs of Melbourne on Friday in connection with the murder, News.com.au reported.
Under the rap name McCodez, Herrmann has in the past posted lyrics on Facebook about suicide and “demons in my mind.” Other lyrics include, “suicidal thoughts, yeah I’ll walk the line … keeping all the demons in my mind.”
The post also features the words “no-one ever taught me how to live a normal life” and “you ain’t going to mess with me.”
On a different Facebook post from a page he operated under the name Kody Wrex, Herrmann on January 8 wrote “international girl of mystery, you knows who you are,” a message that Australian media believes may have been directed at Maasarwe.
Herrmann made news in 2015 after going missing for two weeks from the Bundoora Secondary College. He graduated from the institution a year later.
Maasarwe’s murder has sent a shock wave through Melbourne, normally thought of as one of the world’s most liveable and safe cities.
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,” he said.
Morrison revealed that Maasarwe had been raped before her body was discarded.
“I just want to begin by saying how devastated I am by the despicable, tragic and violent killing and rape of Aiia Maasarwe,” he told reporters in Fiji. “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.”
Hundreds of Australians dressed in black gathered in Melbourne on the steps of Victorian state parliament late Friday for a silent vigil in memory of Maasarwe.
Maasarwe’s father, Saeed, on Friday visited the crime scene, where dozens of flowers and messages from the public have been left nearby in support.
“I feel very, very sad from one side, but from another side, when I get this support and this help — from the people, from the community, from the police — it makes the suffering to feel a little more better,” he told reporters.
“This is the last place my daughter… was here,” he added, breaking down in tears. “I want to be with her for more time, but someone decided I cannot be.”
Maasarwe had been studying at La Trobe University in Melbourne as an exchange student from Shanghai University in China.
Her uncle Abed Kittani told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that Maasarwe’s younger sister remained on the line after the attack.
“She heard the cars passing by and she was helpless, she couldn’t do anything,” Kittani said of the sister, who sent messages, but there was no response.
“Instead of coming home with a diploma, she is coming back in a coffin,” Kittani said.