UPDATE: CCTV capturing the moments after a 17-year-old schoolgirl was fatally stabbed in a Doncaster park while on an evening walk could hold the key to catching her killer.
Masa Vukotic, a Canterbury Girls’ Secondary College student, was attacked at the base of the Koonung Creek Linear Park footbridge just before 7pm yesterday.
Victoria Police are treating the daylight slaying as a random attack.
Homicide Squad Detective Inspector Mick Hughes this afternoon said he was confident the footage, showing a man running north along Heyington Ave, would lead them to a person they hope will shed light on the shocking case.
The man is carrying what police believe to be a wrapped-up shopping bag, possibly containing a murder weapon which is yet to be recovered.
The man police want to speak to has short, dark hair, has a slim build, is of medium height and wore dark clothing.
Police are also investigating the possibility the girl was followed before she was attacked.
A witness also claimed a man fleeing the scene had a green jacket over his arm.
Police have not declared the man in the footage a suspect.
“We still have an open mind,” Insp Hughes said.
“The CCTV footage could be of someone running after a suspect so we would like whoever is in that footage to come forward.
Masa Vukotic, 17, was killed at the base of the Koonung Creek Linear Park footbridge.
“But certainly he is a person of interest at this stage. We hold a lot of hope in the CCTV.
In other aspects of the investigation, police are developing a FACE image of the man and were still talking to the teen’s associates.
But the focus of inquiries were that the attack appeared random, with a chance the killer could be local.
“We’ve got an open mind as to whether it’s random or not – we are certainly treating it as a random attack,” Insp Hughes said.
“My experience tells me people tend to congregate in the areas that they know. All from my aspect I’d certainly be considering anybody local.
The victim was attacked on the Stanton St entrance to Koonung Creek Linear Park in Doncaster.
“People are creatures of habit.”
Family, friends devastated by random slaying
IT was revealed this afternoon that Ms Vukotic attended Canterbury Girls’ Secondary College where she was studying for her VCE.
Her devastated family, of Serbian background, had moved to Australia from Montenegro.
“Naturally they are extremely distressed,” Insp Hughes said.
A still from CCTV of the man police want to speak to.
“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. It’s just tragic you can’t do that today.”
Earlier he said Ms Vukotic’s death was an “absolute tragedy”.
“She was very close to home. She had headphones in when attacked,” he said.
“It’s terrible that a 17-year-old-girl can’t go walking in a park.
Just after 6pm more than two dozen of the teen’s schoolfriends, dressed in her favourite color pink laid flowers at the site.
A man at the scene late last night reacts in horror at the discovery.
Most were pink too, even the wrapping.
The group, several in tears and consoling each other, were too upset to speak.
It followed a procession of mourners who’d come throughout the day – many who didn’t even know the girl.
Some left stuffed toys and cards. One read: “Rest in peace angel”.
One woman, whose daughter was friends with Masa, said she was a beautiful child.
Police believe the killing was “random attack” by a man aged in his 20s.
“She didn’t deserve this,” the woman said.
“No child does. They should be safe. It’s like a parents worst nightmare.”
Masa was passionate about sci-fi, cheekily dressing up with friends for Comic-Con type events celebrating the genre.
Residents heard screams and noises about 6.50pm on Tuesday and phoned triple zero.
Attending officers first found the teen, before paramedics tried to save her life.
The park is popular with locals. Picture: Nicole Garmston
The victim’s distraught father and younger sister were at the scene last night.
Insp Hughes said police would be doorknocking the suburb.
“We’ll throw all our resources behind this to ensure the offender is caught,” he said.
Police are urging anyone who may have seen anything suspicious to come forward.
“If anyone was in this area at the time, we would like them to come forward no matter how small their piece of information is — it may be he key piece of information that we need to solve this investigation,” Insp Hughes said.
The girl was fatally attacked in Koonung Creek Linear Park in Doncaster. Picture: Nicole Garmston
Stanton St residents were last night requested to stay in their homes as sniffer dogs and police helicopters searched for clues and officers doorknocked the area.
Locals reel, pay tribute after stabbing horror
THE daylight murder has sent shock waves through the Doncaster community.
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 more serious.
The couple went to investigate and saw a black jacket on the road, near the intersection of Stanton and Heyington streets.
Mrs Jia said she saw police cars arriving but she did not know about the tragedy until this morning.
She said her daughter had been frightened by the news.
Young women say they’re now scared to walk alone in what they had considered a safe suburb.
Police at Koonung Creek Linear Park last night. Picture: Channel Seven
Young mum Vicky, who lives across the road from where the murder occured, arrived home late yesterday to find the area cordoned off.
“It’s terrible – normally it should be 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 wasn’t even dark, it was daytime.
“I just want him to be arrested – fast.”
Siblings Chloe Benedetti and Matthew Petrucev said they were “shaken”.
They drove from their home in the next street to Stanton St last night after seeing police sniffer dogs and helicopters.
Mr Petrucev, 20, said they stood beside the police tape and could hear the distress of the people who were at the scene.
“You could hear the screams, it was horrible,” he said.
Ms Benedetti, 21, said she would reconsider walking alone at night.
“I’m more worried for other people…especially (because) the person who’s done this hasn’t been caught, so that’s even a bit more scary,” she said.
Adriana Vlamis, 18, said she runs the Koonung trail every day and if she had not have been late arriving from university she would have been running that night.
“It’s scary to think that something like that has happened so close to home,” Ms Vlamis said.
“I’m pretty scared to be home by myself.
“It could have been me.”
Friends Maree and Rita, who regularly walk the path together, said the incident would change the feel of their “quiet pocket” neighbourhood.
Maree said she had become “shaky” and was “horrified” by the news.
“My children walk around at night, we all walk around at night,” she said.
The track was a popular exercise route and, while some parts were bushy and isolated, the women said the area was considered safe as it was usually only frequented by locals.
“It’s an isolated area of Doncaster, it’s not really a thoroughfare to anywhere,” Maree said.
“It has to be somebody around who knows the spot.”
The friends chose to take a different walking route this morning.
“I don’t even want to walk across that bridge for a little while, I don’t think I can handle it knowing that someone lost their life,” Rita said.
Mourners have begun laying flowers and candles near the bridge.
One local woman, who did not want to be identified, said she chose to lay bright gerberas as a tribute to the young victim.
She said she did not know the family but had been shaken by the news and wanted to show her support.
“I just feel so sorry for the mum and dad,” the woman said.
A card attached to another bunch of pink gerberas, delivered by a mother clutching her young daughter’s hand, read: “May the laws change. Thinking of you and your family. Your (sic) forever in our hearts.”
Barbara and Peter Bell said they were surprised to hear of the killing as they considered the area safe.
“We walk here just about every day and we feel quite safe,” Mrs Bell said.
“We see a lot of women, particularly, walking on their own so we’ve never worried about it at all.”
Greta Engizer, who lives less than one kilometre from the crime scene, said she was “disturbed”.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or www.crimestoppersvic.com.au