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'My Heart Aches': Tributes For Exchange Student Found Dead Near Melbourne Shopping Centre

The woman whose body was found outside a shopping centre in Melbourne's north was an Israeli exchange student in her 20s, according to Israeli media. 

Flowers have been laid where the woman’s body was discovered by passers-by in bushland outside Polaris Shopping Centre and metres from a tram stop in Bundoora about 7am on Wednesday.  

While authorities are yet to formally identify the victim, Tel Aviv-based newspaper Haaretz named her as Aya Masarwe who had spent several months in Melbourne on an exchange program as part of her studies at Shanghai University.

According to Haaretz, Masarwe's father is travelling to Melbourne to coordinate the return of her body.

Aya Masarwe (left) was an Israeli student studying English in Melbourne, according to Israeli media. Image: Facebook

Homicide squad detectives are investigating whether Masarwe was stalked  after getting off the Route 86 tram, which runs from Docklands to Bundoora, on Tuesday night. 

“We are treating it as suspicious. It’s apparent, or it seems, that the female has been assaulted,” Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper told reporters on Wednesday. 

He said there was an "active line of inquiry" into whether she had been sexually assaulted.

READ MORE: Body Found Near Melbourne Shopping Centre Being Treated As 'Suspicious'

One woman who left flowers at the scene on Thursday morning told 10 News First the crime was "devastating".

"It just saddens you that you work here, you're in the community every day," she said.

"We just wanted to stand together as a community of women and pay our respects."

Another young woman said she was "scared to go into work this morning".

Police activity around Polaris Town Centre shopping centre where a body was found this in Bundoora. Image: AAP

A large crime scene, spanning about 100 metres, remains cordoned off as officers continue to scour the area for evidence.

Det Insp Stamper urged witnesses or anyone who had been on the Route 86 tram, between 11pm on Tuesday and 1am on Wednesday, to come forward.

“We’re working really hard to get the answers and provide them in due course," he said.

It remains unclear whether the attack was random or targeted.

Contact the author ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au

Featured image: 10 News First