Aya Maasarwe: Australian jailed for student’s high-profile murder

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Aya Maasarwe
Aya Maasarwe had been studying at Melbourne’s La Trobe University

A man has been jailed for raping and murdering an Arab Israeli student in a high-profile case in Australia.

Codey Herrmann, 21, attacked Aya Maasarwe near a university in Melbourne in January.

The killing sparked a wave of anger about violence towards women in Australia, prompting vigils which were attended by thousands of people.

A judge jailed Herrmann for a maximum of 36 years, calling it a “savage attack”.

Ms Maasarwe, 21, had been living in Melbourne on a one-year university exchange when she was murdered.

In her sentencing remarks on Tuesday, Judge Elizabeth Hollingworth described Ms Maasarwe as “a kind young woman who had her whole life in front of her”.

“Women should be free to walk the streets alone without fear of being attacked by strangers,” she told the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Herrmann had pleaded guilty to the attack. He will be eligible for parole in 30 years.

‘Despicable’ attack

Ms Maasarwe was attacked around midnight on 16 January near La Trobe University, in the suburb of Bundoora, while on the phone to her sister.

Herrmann struck her with a metal pole before raping her and inflicting other fatal violence, the court heard. He then set her body alight in an attempt to cover up his crime.

Ms Maasarwe’s body was found the next morning and Herrmann was arrested two days later.

At the time, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called it an “incredibly shocking, despicable and tragic attack”.

Huge crowds of people took part in vigils at the university and on the steps of state parliament in central Melbourne.

Ms Maasarwe's father Saeed in front of thousands of people at a vigil in central Melbourne in January
Image captionMs Maasarwe’s father Saeed (centre) at a vigil attended by thousands in January

“Nothing will change until we change, too. Until we stop blaming ‘bad men’ – while ignoring the sexist attitudes in our society that created them,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said in the wake of the killing.

Australia’s human rights commission has said that the country has “a disturbingly high rate of violence against women”.

According to government figures, one in five women, and one in 20 men, have experienced sexual violence or threats since the age of 15.

Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, draws large numbers of foreign students to its many universities. More than 200,000 students came to the state of Victoria in 2017 to study, according to the state government.

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