A 20-year-old man appeared in an Australian court on Saturday charged with murder and rape in a savage attack on an Israeli student that had captured the country’s attention.
Codey Herrmann, an aspiring rapper who performs as MC Codez, did not apply for bail in the Melbourne Magistrates Court. He is accused of killing Aiia Maasarwe, 21, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Maasarwe, 21, was killed on the way home from a comedy show in Melbourne just after midnight Tuesday. She was attacked while speaking to her younger sister in Israel on FaceTime shortly after stepping from a tram in the Melbourne suburb of Bundoora. Maasarwe was from Baqa al-Gharbiya in northern Israel, a predominantly Arab city.
Maasarwe’s body was found in bushes near the tram stop by passers-by several hours later on Wednesday morning.
The victim had been studying at La Trobe University in Melbourne for the past five months as an exchange student from Shanghai University in China.
There have been no known statements from Israeli officials on the murder.
Victoria police, who have described the attack as “horrific,” arrested Herrmann in the outer suburbs of Melbourne on Friday.
Herrmann hung his head Saturday as he sat in the dock and stood only to hear the charges against him read. He was not required to enter pleas.
He will appear in the same court on Monday. A murder conviction carries a potential maximum penalty of life imprisonment and rape carries a potential maximum of 25 years.
Hundreds of people dressed in black held several vigils in Melbourne for Maasarwe on Friday, including filling the 86 tram, which she was believed to have ridden on her way home, with flowers.
Her father Saeed broke down at the crime scene, where dozens of flowers and messages from the public were 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.”
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.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited the memorial on Saturday, accompanied by his wife and two daughters.
“Later today, I’m going to be meeting with her father. Words will fail me, I’m sure, as one father to another,” Morrison told reporters.
“I think that the country is very shaken … but at the same time, as always, reaches out and seeks to comfort and I want to thank those Australians for doing that and I was pleased to be able to, with my family, simply do the same,” he added.
Maasarwe’s murder has sent a shock wave through Melbourne, normally thought of as one of the world’s most liveable and safe cities.
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.”
Under the rap name MC Codez, 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.