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Sister’s last phone call – murdered just minutes from home

Aia was on the adventure of a lifetime when the unthinkable happened
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Noor Maasarwe, 23, was so proud when her sister moved to Australia. Then the unthinkable happened….

Here, Noor shares her story in her own words.

I grabbed my phone as it pinged with a message.

I’ve landed in Melbourne, my younger sister Aia, 21, had written.

Good, stay safe, I replied.

It was August 2018, and Aia had flown to Australia for a year on a university exchange.

We’d grown up in Israel with our mum Kitam and
our other sisters, Ruba, 19, and Lena, 17.

Then Aia and I had both moved to Shanghai to study, which was closer to our dad Saeed, who lived in China.

We spent our weekends together, going for brunch and visiting museums.

I already missed her, but I knew how excited she was to get to Australia.

‘I picked it because it seems like a safe country,’ she’d told me, ‘and I love the accent,’ she’d grinned.

With her hilarious humour and positive attitude, I knew she’d settle in just fine.

Aia and me in Shanghai
Aia and me in Shanghai (Credit: Supplied)

Speaking most days, Aia would send over photos and update me with how things were going.

I’ve set up my bank account and found somewhere to live, she typed.

As the months went on, Aia continued to enjoy her Aussie experience, making mates and soaking up the culture.

Dad and I planned to visit her in early 2019, once I’d finished my exams and I couldn’t wait.

In January, when Aia had been away for five months, I sent her a voice message as I walked to the library.

Can’t speak at the moment, I’m at a comedy show, she wrote back. But I’ll call you later.

A few hours later, Aia sent another message saying she was on her way home and free for a chat.

I’m just in the middle of studying, can you call Ruba? I asked.

The road stretching from the tram stop to Aia’s home in Bundoora wasn’t well lit and she’d usually chat to one of us at night.

We agreed she’d call me after speaking to Ruba.

But around 20 minutes later, it was my sister Lena who rang me.

Both she and Ruba were on the other end.

‘I’ve just been speaking to Aia and I don’t know what happened. She cursed and then it sounded like her phone dropped,’ Ruba said.

‘All we can hear now is traffic,’ Lena added.

‘That’s weird, maybe she dropped it down a manhole,’ I said. ‘Stay on the call to her and see what happens.’

I went back to studying, but I couldn’t concentrate.

Maasarwe family
Our family will never be all together again (Credit: Supplied)

Ruba stayed on the phone for an hour and nothing changed.

Going home, I tried to sleep, but all I could think about was Aia.

She hadn’t screamed, so surely she wasn’t in any danger?

Worrying, I contacted her friends, but no-one had spoken to her.

When she didn’t turn up to her morning lecture, I asked her classmate to check her home.

But she wasn’t there either.

Panicked, I called police in Melbourne, reporting my sister as missing.

Then, around an hour later, I found a news link.

Female body found in Melbourne, the headline read.

The location and timings matched. I knew it was her.

Frantically calling the police, I begged, ‘Please tell me whose body you’ve just found!’

But they wouldn’t.

Hands trembling, I rang various Melbourne police stations, but no-one would confirm.

Heading back to the news site, there was an update and footage of the scene.

In the background was Aia’s phone and her shoes. We’d bought them together in China.

Saeed Maasarwe in Melbourne
Our father Saeed in Melbourne (Credit: Getty)

I felt sick and couldn’t stop crying. Then a detective called, confirming it was her.

Devastated, I phoned my sisters.

‘She’s dead,’ I cried.

They were at home, so I told them to put Mum on.

‘You need to sit down,’ I sobbed. ‘Aia’s dead.’

Too distraught to tell my dad, I asked his friend to.

Dad immediately flew to Australia to bring Aia’s body home, while I returned to Israel to be with Mum and my sisters.

Over the next few days, we learned what happened to our beautiful Aia.

On January 16, 2019, Aia got off the tram at midnight in Bundoora.

Within minutes, she was brutally raped and murdered.

At 7am, a passer-by found Aia’s body behind a hedge outside a shopping centre, just 100 metres from the tram stop.

For the next 48 hours, police carried out an intense investigation until they arrested and charged Codey Herrmann, 20.

Tributes to Aia in Melbourne
Tributes to Aia in Melbourne (Credit: Getty)
Aia's killer Codey Herrmann
Aia’s killer, Codey Herrmann (Credit: Getty)

Enraged over our sister’s death, Ruba, Lena and I took to the streets of Israel and protested about violence against women.

Aia had been just 1km – 10 minutes – from home.

Hundreds joined us, holding signs such as Stop killing women and Everyone has the right to get home safely. It was very emotional to see everyone united over our sister.

In June 2019, Herrmann pleaded guilty to killing and raping my sister, Aia Maasarwe.

Details of my sister’s death were so brutal police refused to reveal them to the public and asked them to be left out of court documents.

But they stated she died of head injuries and suffered blunt-force trauma.

Herrmann’s sentencing is still to come. 

Aia was such a special, friendly, life-loving person.

She was living her dream in Australia and had so much ahead of her. What happened to her was horrifying and has changed my family forever.

My beautiful sister should have been able to walk home that night without getting murdered.

Women should feel safe when they’re walking home, and we need to make sure that what happened to Aia never happens again. ●

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