Australian police arrest man over Israeli student’s death

Two women stand at a floral tribute at the scene where the body of Israeli student Aiia Maasarwe was found earlier in the week in Melbourne, Australia. (AP)
Updated 18 January 2019

Australian police arrest man over Israeli student’s death

  • The 21-year-old was killed on the way home from a comedy show in Melbourne just after midnight, when she was attacked
  • A 20-year-old man from the outer suburbs of Melbourne was arrested at 11.20am Friday

CANBERRA, Australia: Australian police arrested a man Friday for questioning over the death of an Israeli student, while the victim’s tearful father visited the flower-strewn crime scene in Melbourne where her body was found.
Aiia Maasarwe was slain at 12:10 a.m. on Wednesday shortly after she got off a tram in the Melbourne suburb of Bundoora.
A 20-year-old was taken into custody on Friday morning in the neighboring suburb of Greensborough, a police statement said. Police did not say if any charges have been filed.
The 21-year-old victim was studying at La Trobe University in Melbourne as an exchange student from Shanghai University in China.
Her father Saeed Maasarve arrived in Melbourne on Thursday to bring her body home. He cried Friday when saw an impromptu floral memorial arranged by members of the public at the site where her body was found behind a hedge not far from the tram stop.
“This is the last place my daughter — was here,” the father told reporters. “I had many dreams to be with her.”
Police have not detailed the attack on Maasarwe, which they assume was random and opportunistic.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed that she 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,” Morrison 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,” he added.
Her uncle, Abed Kittani, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that Maasarve was speaking by phone to a younger sister when she was attacked.
“She heard the cars passing by and she was helpless, she couldn’t do anything,” Kittani said of the sister. The sister sent messages, but there was no response.
“Instead of coming home with a diploma, she is coming back in a coffin,” Kittani said.
Another uncle, Rame Maasarwe, said: “We cannot believe that something like this happened in Australia; we think it’s very safe there.”
The Melbourne community organized a vigil outside Victoria state parliament. Later Friday, a tram carrying only flowers will depart from there following the route of her final journey.
“Tonight, on the steps of parliament, Victorians will gather to remember Aiia Maasarwe. Positive. Fun. ‘The kindest girl.’ A 21-year-old just making her way in the world, with her whole life ahead of her. A student on her way home after a comedy show with friends,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews tweeted.


As virus spreads to more Chinese cities, WHO calls emergency meeting

Updated 14 min 6 sec ago

As virus spreads to more Chinese cities, WHO calls emergency meeting

  • Third death reported in Wuhan, where outbreak started
  • Total number of cases more than triples to 221

BEIJING: An outbreak of a new coronavirus has spread to more Chinese cities, including the capital Beijing and Shanghai, authorities said on Monday, and a fourth case has been reported beyond China’s borders.
China’s National Health Commission confirmed that the virus, which causes a type of pneumonia, can pass from person-to-person, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
President Xi Jinping said curbing the outbreak and saving lives was a top priority as the number of patients more than tripled and a third person died.
Adding to the difficulties of containing it, hundreds of millions of Chinese will be traveling domestically and abroad during the Lunar New Year holiday that starts this week.
Authorities around the globe, including in the United States and many Asian countries, have stepped up screening of travelers from Wuhan, the central city where the virus was first discovered.
“Wuhan is a major hub and with travel being a huge part of the fast approaching Chinese New Year, the concern level must remain high. There is more to come from this outbreak,” said Jeremy Farrar, a specialist in infectious disease epidemics and director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity.
Authorities confirmed a total of 217 new cases of the virus in China as of 6 p.m. local time (1000 GMT) on Monday, state television reported, 198 of which were in Wuhan.
Five new cases were confirmed in Beijing and 14 more in Guangdong province, the report said. Another statement confirmed a new case in Shanghai, bringing the number of known cases worldwide to 222.
“People’s lives and health should be given top priority and the spread of the outbreak should be resolutely curbed,” President Xi was quoted as saying by state television.
The virus belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002/03 outbreak that also started in China.
Its symptoms include fever and difficulty in breathing, which are similar to many other respiratory diseases and pose complications for screening efforts.
Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert and head of the health commission team investigating the outbreak, confirmed that two cases of infection in Guangdong province were due to human-to-human transmission, Xinhua said. Some medical staff have been infected, it added, but gave no number.

BEYOND BORDERS
South Korea on Monday confirmed its first case, a 35-year-old Chinese national who had traveled from Wuhan, the fourth patient reported outside China.
Last week, two cases were reported in Thailand and one in Japan. All three involved people from Wuhan or who recently visited the city.
A report by London Imperial College’s MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis estimated that by Jan. 12 there were 1,723 cases in Wuhan City with onset of related symptoms. Chinese health authorities have not commented directly on the report.
“This outbreak is extremely concerning. Uncertainty and gaps remain, but it is now clear that there is person to person transmission,” Farrar said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday “an animal source” appeared most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak and that some “limited human-to-human transmission” occurred between close contacts.
The Geneva-based UN agency later convened an emergency committee for Wednesday to assess whether the outbreak constitutes an international health emergency and what measures should be taken to manage it.
So far, the WHO has not recommended trade or travel restrictions, but a panel of independent experts could do so or make other recommendations to limit spread.
China’s state council reiterated the government will step up prevention efforts and find the source of infection and transmission channels as soon as possible, state television said on Monday.
Shares in pharmaceutical firms and mask makers in China surged Monday because of the outbreak.
“Who knows how many people who have been to Wuhan may be unaware that they have already been infected?,” said one commentator on Chinese social media platform Weibo
The state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial the government needs to disclose all information and not repeat the mistakes made with SARS. Chinese officials covered up the SARS outbreak for weeks before a growing death toll and rumors forced it to reveal the epidemic.
“Concealment would be a serious blow to the government’s credibility and might trigger greater social panic,” the editorial said.
(Reporting by Winni Zhou and Josh Horwitz in Shanghai, Roxanne Liu, Sophie Yu, Judy Hua and Colin Qian and Se Young Lee in Beijing, Joyce Lee in Seoul, Kate Kelland in London, and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Angus MacSwan)