TEARS FOR MASA: Student murdered just 500m from home

Written By komlim puldel on Rabu, 18 Maret 2015 | 20.01

Police are investigating the murder of a 17-year-old girl found repeatedly stabbed at Melbourne reserve.

HOMICIDE squad detectives are hunting the killer of schoolgirl Masa Vukotic — and believe he could be a local man.

The 17-year-old was stabbed while on her regular evening walk on a park trail just 500m from her family home, by the Eastern Freeway in Doncaster.

Detective Inspector Mick Hughes said police were probing whether the killer had lain in wait for a random victim or had been stalking Masa for days.

But they were treating it as a random ­attack, possibly by a local.

"My experience tells me people tend to congregate in the areas that they know," said Insp Hughes.

"All from my aspect, I'd certainly be considering anybody local. People are creatures of habit," he said.

Masa, a Canterbury Girls' Secondary College student completing her VCE, was wearing headphones when attacked in daylight at the base of the Koonung Creek Linear Park footbridge at 6.50pm on Tuesday.

Masa Vukotic, 17, who was killed on Tuesday night in a Doncaster park during her regular evening walk. Source: Supplied

Her brutal murder has sent shock waves through the local community.

A man dressed in black clothing was captured on CCTV fleeing the scene, shortly after neighbours heard the teenager's chilling screams and called 000. The CCTV footage and the seizure of a nearby resident's outdoor tap — which police believe the killer used to wash his bloodied hands — could prove vital.

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The man seen sprinting up Heyington Ave in the footage was carrying what appeared to be a white plastic shopping bag which may have concealed the murder weapon.

Siblings Chloe Benedetti and Matthew Petrucev said they were "shaken" after hurrying to the scene and hearing the evident distress of others.

"You could hear the screams, it was horrible," Mr Petrucev said.

Insp Hughes said: "We've got an open mind as to whether it's random or not — we are certainly treating it as a random attack.

"This is part of her routine. She has been walking daily. Like a lot of us she's just out there walking and trying to stay fit."

Insp Hughes added: "It's just tragic you can't do that today."

He added: "We'll throw all our resources behind this to ensure the offender is caught."

A still from CCTV of the man police want to speak to. Source: Supplied

On Wednesday night scores of friends gathered at the crime scene, dressed in pink and laying pink flowers, as it was Masa's favourite colour.

A fellow student from her college laying flowers with her mother said: "A lot of the year 12s were crying.

"The teachers were all upset too. It's just weird to think that it's all just so close to us, when it happens to someone in your own school."

Friend Carlee said Masa had no enemies and was a good, well-behaved girl.

"She didn't speak to many people, she kept to herself and had a small group of friends," Carlee said.

"She wouldn't have had any enemies. That's why this has shocked me so much, she's the last person to have someone want to harm her."

Masa Vukotic. Source: Supplied

Neighbours of the Vukotic home, just 500m from where she was killed, expressed disbelief at what had occurred.

Betty Lee said the family, which also included another younger daughter, was very close-knit.

"We are just devastated," she said. "They are just a really carefree happy family — all of them. They were always out here kicking a ball. They were just really outdoorsy. They are not cottonwool kids."

Ms Lee added: "We are in absolute shock. The teen was a happy go lucky youth. She was just really nice and sweet — gorgeous.

"Every time I saw her she had a smile on her face.

"Words just can't describe it. It's just unimaginable — ­totally unimaginable."

Investigators hope the garden tap will yield vital forensic evidence as they hunt Masa's killer.

Masa was attacked on the Stanton St entrance to Koonung Creek Linear Park in Doncaster. Source: HeraldSun

They seized the tap from the front yard of Heyington Avenue resident Ermanno Di Battista, believing the killer may have used it to wash his bloodstained hands.

"A police officer told me, 'We think he washed his hands with your tap'," Mr De Battista said last night.

He added: "It's terrible. It's very, very bad."

His home is on the same street that the man on CCTV was seen sprinting up shortly after the fatal attack.

Young mum Vicky, who lives across the road from where the murder happened, arrived home late yesterday to find the area cordoned off

"It's terrible — normally it should be really safe in this area," she said.

"There are so many kids around here because the school is just nearby. And there are so many people just exercising and running.

"It's scary. It wasn't even dark, it was daytime. I just want whoever did this to be ­arrested — fast."

Friends at the scene of the stabbing. Picture: David Caird. Source: News Corp Australia

Grace, laying flowers, said: "I go for a walk every day here. It's just an innocent girl.

"It's really quiet and there are so many parks around. It's just sad you can't go for a walk and be safe.

"I'm sure people won't be going for a walk tonight that's for sure."

Yi Hua Jia, whose 15-year-old daughter walks the path every day, said she and her husband were getting ready for their nightly walk when they heard a scream.

"I just heard screeching," Mrs Jia said.

She said her husband suggested someone may have fainted or fallen but Mrs Jia said the noise sounded far more serious.

The couple went to investigate and saw a black jacket lying on the road, near the intersection of Stanton St and Heyington Ave.

Mrs Jia said she saw police cars arriving but she said she did not know the full extent of the tragedy until she woke up yesterday.

jon.kaila@news.com.au

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