A 20-year-old Australian man pleaded guilty Wednesday to raping and killing a young Arab Israeli student in Melbourne in January in a brutal act of violence that sparked an outpouring of grief in both countries.
Aiia Maasarwe, 21, had been studying at La Trobe University in Melbourne for 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 when she was attacked shortly after stepping from a tram in the Melbourne suburb of Bundoora. Her body was found by passers-by near a tram stop on an early January morning, hours after she was attacked.
Codey Herrmann was arrested and charged by police with the attacks several days later. He pleaded guilty to one charge of rape and one charge of murder in the Supreme Court of Victoria state.
His sentencing hearing is due to take place in early October.
In Australia, the murder sparked intense outcry and drew thousands of protesters to the streets calling for an end to violence against women amid concerns that authorities are not doing enough to improve women's safety.
Aiia's father Saeed Maarsarwe visited a Melbourne memorial to his daughter earlier this year.
"What he did to Aiia wasn’t human," he said. "She was always smiling, she loved people. She had an open mind and wanted to learn about new cultures. I wanted to be with her longer, but now that’s impossible. I pray that she is with God in heaven."
In Israel, thousands attended Aiia's funeral in her hometown of Baqa al-Gharbiya.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government, however, faced criticism over their conspicuous reticence regarding Maasarwe's murder as compared to their quick responses to tragedies around the world involving Jewish Israeli citizens.