Woman found dead at Princes Park soccer pitch in Melbourne, homicide squad investigating
Images of a man police wish to speak to about the death of a woman in Carlton North on June 13, 2018. (Supplied: Victoria Police)
The homicide squad is investigating whether the suspicious death of a woman, whose body was found on a soccer pitch in Melbourne’s inner north overnight, is linked to a sexual assault on a woman in the area earlier this year.
Police said a passer-by found the woman on the field at the Princes Park sporting precinct between Royal Parade and Princes Park Drive in Carlton North about 2:40am.
Paramedics were called to the scene but the woman could not be revived.
The woman has not been formally identified.
Acting Inspector Andrew Stamper from the homicide squad said police were “keeping an open mind” about whether the death was linked to a sexual assault in nearby Parkville on March 28.
A 21-year-old woman named Jessie (last name withheld) has told police she was grabbed by a man, thrown to the ground and sexually assaulted while walking along Gatehouse Street about 2:35am.
She screamed and managed to break free and ran to a nearby property before calling police.
“We’re aware of that matter and we have been liaising with our colleagues at the sexual crimes squad,” Acting Inspector Stamper said.
“At this stage we have an open mind, but obviously we’ll be considering that matter in relation to this one.”
However, Acting Inspector Stamper stressed that the investigation was still in its early stages and they were still unsure if any link existed.
He said police would conduct a line search in the area the body was found.
Inspector Stamper urged anyone in the Princes Park area who believe they many have seen something to contact police.
“I do emphasise anything, any small piece of information that someone might have that they feel may assist this investigation,” he said.
The area is popular with runners, walkers and cyclists and part of the Princes Park running track has been closed off.
The Carlton Football Club is also based at the precinct.
‘This was the thing everybody warned me about’
Jessie said the “violent and terrifying” attack in Parkville had damaged her ability to trust other people.
She was walking home from a friend’s house when the man grabbed her.
“I remember one of the first thoughts I had was [that] this was the thing that everybody warned me about, that every woman gets told to look out for and I never thought it would happen to me,” she said.
“It’s the only time I’ve really felt that somebody could really rip me out of the world that easily … I felt like I was fighting for my life.”
Jessie, who is from Washington DC in the United States, studied at the University of Melbourne last year and returned to Melbourne because she missed the city.
“Funnily enough, I always told people how I felt so safe walking around here, at all hours,” she said.
“[The attack] kind of just made me realise that even if you think somewhere is a safe place and maybe the rate of crime isn’t as high … it’s still always something that could happen.”
She said the attack had changed the way she approached her life.
“I spend more money on cabs, if I know a girl is about to walk home in the middle of the night I’m like ‘don’t do that, let me call you a Uber. It’s made me trust people less.”
Jessie said the community needed to be better at identifying people responsible for sexual assaults.
“We need to look out for people that do this. Whoever this man is, he has a family and a life, he probably has a job,” she said.
Parkville sex assault a ‘vicious attack’
Detective Senior Sergeant Brendan Butland, who is investigating the sexual assault on Jessie said it appeared the attack was not planned.
An image of the man police want to speak to about the Parkville assault. (Supplied: Victoria Police)
“These sort of attacks, they’re vicious attacks on a female just walking home,” Detective Senior Sergeant Butland said.
“She’d been out that night, she’d been socialising with friends and was simply returning home.”
He said Jessie was wearing earphones and did not hear the attacker approach from behind.
He then “bear-hugged” her and dragged her to the ground.
“Anybody should be able to walk home, late at night, regardless of whether they’re wearing earphones or not,” he said.
The man is described as being between 25 and 35 years old, with olive skin and a muscular build.
Police released an image of a man they want to speak to, and asked anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers.
‘Take responsibility of your safety’: police
Local police Superintendent David Clayton said police would step up its number of patrols the area.
“There’ll be highly visible police presence at all times of the day and night. They’ll be on foot, they’ll be on bicycles and they’ll be in cars,” he said.
He said people should be aware of their surroundings.
“The message we would provide to all members of the community is to take responsibility for your safety,” he said.
“This is an area of high community activity … so just make sure you have situational awareness, that you’re aware of your surroundings.
“Make sure people know where you are and that if you’ve got a mobile phone, carry it. And if you’ve got any concerns, call police.”