An Australian man received a 36-year prison-term over charges of raping and killing a Palestinian exchange fellow, after the notorious case has stirred the wrath of advocates of women’s safety in Australia.
Codey Herrmann pleaded guilty earlier this year to the brutal murder and sexual assault of 21-year-old Aya Maasarwe while she was on her way home from a night out near her university in the city of Melbourne in January this year.
Herrmann will serve a minimum of 30 years before he is eligible for parole.
The murderer hit Aya with a metal pole, raped her, beat her and then set her body on fire in an attempt to cover up the murder.
Sentencing Herrmann in the Supreme Court of Victoria, Judge Elizabeth Hollingworth called the crime a “savage attack” and described 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 Court, according to Channel 9 News.
Herrmann’s lawyer had told the court his client deserved leniency as he suffered from a personality disorder as the result of childhood trauma. However the judge said that although she was sympathetic, Herrmann’s mental condition was even more reason for the court to ensure that society was protected from him.
Maasarwe’s father Saeed reacted to the sentencing, asking his daughter be remembered as someone who loved everybody, regardless of their background.
Aya’s body was spotted by passersby near a tram stop in Australia’s second-largest city on January 16, just a few hours after she was assaulted on her way home.
Aya, a native of the Palestinian town of Baqa al-Gharbiya, had been studying at La Trobe University in Melbourne for five months as an exchange fellow from Shanghai University in China, and was attacked while speaking to her younger sister in occupied Palestine on FaceTime.
“It was very hard to see [the details of the murder] in the news,” said Aya’s sister Noor. “We already know what happened… It’s my sister and she’s also my best friend…it was very, very hard.”
Her father said he is still struggling with his grief, but remembers his daughter’s unwavering joy.
“All the time she smiled. I remember all the time she thinks positive. And she was very, very sensitive,” he said. “I try to go back to my life, a normal life, but it’s not easy, because every place I go, every young girl I see, I remember Aya.”
Aya’s case has stirred a huge outpouring of grief and anger that saw thousands flock to gatherings in her memory and vigils staged in protest at the grisly murder.