MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A 20-year-old man appeared in an Australian court on Saturday charged with murder and rape in the death of an Israeli student in the city of Melbourne in a savage attack that shocked Australia.
Codey Herrmann, an aspiring rapper who performs as M.C. Codez, did not apply for bail when he appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court accused of slaying Aiia Maasarwe in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The 21-year-old victim had been studying at La Trobe University in Melbourne for the past five months as an exchange student from Shanghai University in China.
She was on her way home from a Melbourne comedy club and was speaking to her younger sister in Israel on FaceTime with her cellphone when she was attacked shortly after stepping off from a tram in the suburb of Bundoora.
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Herrmann hung his head 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.
Herrmann was arrested on Friday morning in a suburb neighboring Bundoora around the same time as the victim’s China-based father, Saeed Maasarwe, visited a floral memorial to his daughter that has grown at the site where her body was dumped behind a hedge not far from the tram station. The father arrived in Melbourne on Thursday to confirm his daughter’s identity and to bring her home.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited the same 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.
Around 1,000 people, including Saeed Maasarwe, gathered in a silent vigil in respect for the young Israeli on the steps of Victoria state parliament on Friday night. Many carrying flowers and candles later took trams to another vigil at the location near a shopping mall where the body was found on Wednesday morning.
Floral tributes continue to be laid at La Trobe University, which is in Bundoora, a suburb where many students live.