Masa Vukotic stabbing: 'It could have been anyone'

The murder of schoolgirl Masa Vukotic brings back chilling memories of the horrific death of Jill Meagher which stunned Australia.

The 17-year-old Canterbury Girls college student was walking through a Doncaster park on Wednesday evening when she was brutally stabbed to death by a man who appears to have been completely unknown to her.

Her body was found near a footbridge in Koonung Creek Linear Reserve in Stanton Street after neighbours heard screaming and saw a man fleeing the scene.

The stabbing murder of Masa Vukotic as she walked through a Doncaster park has left a family heartbroken and a community in shock. Photo: Facebook
The stabbing murder of Masa Vukotic as she walked through a Doncaster park has left a family heartbroken and a community in shock. Photo: Facebook

The teenager was just 500 metres from home and had no reason to believe she would encounter such explicit danger on a journey she had completed safely on countless occasions.

Shortly before 7pm, Masa's killer approached his unsuspecting victim, who was wearing headphones, from behind and launched a violent and apparent random attack that has left a close-knit community shocked and angry.

A normally quiet suburb full of families, Doncaster residents say their freedom and right to walk the streets unharmed has been ruthlessly compromised.

The crime scene has been transformed into a blanket of floral tributes and messages of condolence - an outpouring of grief not seen since the unprecedented reaction to the brutal rape and murder of Jill Meagher almost three years ago.

Masa Vukotic. Source: Supplied
Masa Vukotic. Source: Supplied

Melburnians utterly outraged and sickened by the loss of Jill Meagher through a random act of violence will never forget the crime, and no doubt the latest tragedy will remain etched in our minds for years to come.

The innocent 29-year-old fell into the sharp focus of evil eyes on September 22, 2012, and became the tragic bait in a senseless, cruel and random attack that could have befallen anyone.

Jill’s final and volatile last hours were spent at a bar on Sydney Street, Brunswick.

An ABC colleague’s offer to escort Jill home at the end of the night was kindly knocked back. Jill's home was too within walking distance - a familiar five-minute journey too short to be fraught with danger and risk.

Jill Meagher was brutally raped and murdered in Sydney Street, Brunswick, in September, 2012.  Photo: ABC file
Jill Meagher was brutally raped and murdered in Sydney Street, Brunswick, in September, 2012. Photo: ABC file

Her husband, Tom, would be waiting for her and, in her mind, she would arrive home safely just like she had done every other night until that perilous stroll.

So many times myself and friends have embarked on a walk home at the end of a night, with no reason to ever believe that such an awful thing could happen. But the world of innocence and beauty collided with evil that fateful night.

Security video, captured on Melbourne’s surveillance cameras, painted a chilling and silent narrative of Jill's tragic final hours.

The footage documented her solo and slightly wobbly walk home along Sydney Street and proved key in the prosecution’s case against her sadistic killer, whose name has been suppressed by a court.

Its public release also served as a troubling reminder that dangers do lurk on the streets - and it is possible to stray, albeit unwittingly, into the path of the wicked.

Murder victim: Masa Vukotic. Photo: Facebook
Murder victim: Masa Vukotic. Photo: Facebook

I pictured myself in a similar situation - stomping the pavements in my high heels in a desperate bid for home after a night out with friends.

Pumped with booze and empowered by a false sense of invincibility, the stroll often leads me along a dark street at some unearthly hour.

The next morning I wake and chastise my ludicrous and downright dangerous decision to make such a journey - that's if I remember it at all.

I have often found myself in vulnerable and compromising scenarios, but I, unlike Jill, have always made it safely to my front door. Jill wasn’t so lucky.

In security video, released by a Melbourne court, Jill's killer emerges behind her in pursuit.

By this time, Jill’s fate is sealed. Watching the vision of events as they unfold is like anticipating a devastating showdown in a movie watched time and time again - you are powerless to shape history or change the inevitable.

In the vision, Jill’s ill-fated encounter with her killer appears terrifyingly harmless. It sent shudders down my spine as I tried to comprehend the devastating reality of that chance meet.

She appears to grab her mobile from her handbag and then signals to the intruder that she is about to make a call, but he continues to close in, backing her into a corner. I would need another hand if I were to tally the number of times I've been confronted by strangers in the street, but I live to tell my tale, and learn from casual encounters, not Jill.

The footage eventually assisted in the capture and conviction of Jill's killer.

Soon after Masa's death, police released CCTV images taken from a bus showing a man in a t-shirt clutching a plastic bag. The images were plastered on television, newspapers and websites, and within hours a man had surrendered himself to police.

Masa Vukotic has been remembered as a 'loving, sweet, smart' young woman. Photo: Facebook
Masa Vukotic has been remembered as a 'loving, sweet, smart' young woman. Photo: Facebook

Like Jill, Masa was a kind-hearted young woman with a zest for life. She had aspirations, ambition and impacted the lives of those around her in a positive way, yet her life was so cruelly and senselessly taken.

The freedom to walk down a street safely is a right Australians cherish, yet police have warned the public, particularly women, not to walk alone in parks in the wake of the sickening attack.

"We should be allowed to walk anywhere at anytime but reality proves we can't do that," Detective Inspector Michael Hughes told reporters at a press conference.

"I suggest to people, particularly females, they shouldn't be alone in parks. I'm sorry to say that is the case."

Those with whom I share a chaste bond of love repeatedly remind me to stay vigilant for the 'world is not always a safe place'.

The wise words and principles of my mother are firmly stamped into my psyche: ‘You have to be careful, there are some cruel people in this world’.

I listened respectfully to her pearls yet subtly dismissed her warning with an ignorant belief that I would never step into harm’s way for tragedies only befall others. My mum's words once again rang out like a bolt from the blue as I learned with distaste and sorrow about the events of Wednesday.

Masa's death is yet another rude awakening for both myself and society. It is an acutely sad and terrifying fact that pockets of evil do exist within our largely honest and decent community, and we should not be turning a blind eye.

  • A rally will be held at the Royal Botanical Gardens tonight to protest violence against women and victim blaming.

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