A Melbourne court on Tuesday sentenced an Australian man to 36 years in prison for the rape and murder of an Israeli student in January.
Codey Herrmann pleaded guilty earlier this year to the brutal killing and sexual assault of 21-year-old Aya Maasarwe while she was on her way home from a night out in the city.
Herrmann will serve a minimum of 30 years before he is eligible for parole.
“Women should be free to walk the streets alone without fear of being violently attacked by a stranger,” Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth said in her sentencing remarks, according to Channel 9 News.
Herrmann’s lawyer had told the court his client deserved leniency as he suffered from a personality disorder as the result of childhood trauma. However the judge said that although she was sympathetic, Herrmann’s mental condition was even more reason for the court to ensure that society was protected from him.
Maasarwe’s father Saeed reacted to the sentencing, asking his daughter be remembered as someone who loved everybody, regardless of their background.
He called on the Australian government to do more to protect women and international visitors, saying that Herrmann would be free to live his life in 30 years.
When asked how it felt to look at his daughter’s murderer, Saeed said: “We lost Aya, it doesn’t matter if I look at him.”
Aya’s body was found by passersby near a tram stop in Australia’s second-largest city on January 16, hours after she was attacked on her way home.
Aya, of the Arab Israeli town of Baqa al-Gharbiya, had been studying at La Trobe University in Melbourne for five months as an exchange student from Shanghai University in China, and was attacked while speaking to her younger sister in Israel on FaceTime.
The student’s murder shocked Australians and sparked a huge outpouring of grief that saw thousands attend gatherings in her memory, and raised questions about the safety of women on public streets.
Maasarwe’s family on Sunday launched a fellowship for Palestinian doctors in her name, with Saeed telling The Guardian that he does not seek revenge.
“Our compass is not revenge,” Saeed said. “We think all the time, our mind, our compass is positive, is not negative.”
The family also expressed sadness and disappointment about the decision of the court to release details of the grisly murder.
“In the court, we want something not to be public and we asked for this one and the court they don’t care about our feeling or our culture,” Saeed said.
“It was very hard to see [the details of the murder] in the news,” added Aya’s sister Noor. “We already know what happened… It’s my sister and she’s also my best friend…it was very, very hard.”
Saeed said he is still struggling with his grief, but remembers his daughter’s unwavering joy.
“All the time she smiled. I remember all the time she thinks positive. And she was very, very sensitive,” he said. “I try to go back to my life, a normal life, but it’s not easy, because every place I go, every young girl I see, I remember Aya.”
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