MARCH 19, 2015
– Sean Christian Price of Albion allegedly went on a criminal spree after police claimed he murdered a Doncaster teenager Masa Vukotic on Tuesday night.
In a five minute bail hearing tonight, Price was charged with the murder of the 17-year-old Canterbury Girls’ Secondary College student.
He was also charged with rape, three assaults and two robberies which police say he committed before handing himself in to a Sunshine police station at 11.30am today.
Price was led into the hearing room at the St Kilda Rd police complex bare-footed, handcuffed and wearing a prison issue blue overalls shortly before 9pm.
After the bail justice Ben Czerniewicz incorrectly read his date of birth as 1954 Price yelled “are you a judge?”
“I must look pretty good for my age?”
Mr Czerniewicz said: “I have no choice not to remand you, do you understand that?”
Price replied “yes”.
Price slouched in his chair throughout the proceeding and only became animated when his age was read out incorrectly.
He was remanded in custody and will face the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Friday morning.
Earlier, police said a man approached a 26-year-old man on a foot-bridge near Devonshire Rd, Sunshine, at about 10am.
The offender then assaulted the man and stole his mobile phone. The victim was taken to hospital.
It is believed the same man then tried to car-jack a car belonging to a 77-year-old Braeside man in McCracken St.
The would-be thief then fled.
At 11.20am, a man walked into a shop on Harvester Rd and physically and sexually assaulted a staff member.
The victim was taken to Sunshine Hospital.
“A man has been arrested and is currently assisting police with their inquiries,” a Victoria Police statement said.
Mr Price, who handed himself into police about 11.30am today, smiled at cameras as he was driven away from Sunshine police station flanked by detectives about 1.10pm.
Wearing a blue police-issued jumpsuit, the man in his 20s also stuck his middle finger up as the car stopped briefly on busy Ballarat Rd.
Mr Price was in handcuffs and appeared calm and even smiled a broad smile from the back seat of the unmarked police car, his head cocked to one side.
Detective Inspector Mick Hughes said the man was not known to the slain schoolgirl.
“We currently have a man in custody and he is en route to homicide squad,” Det Insp Hughes said earlier today.
It’s not known if the offender was targeting Masa but police believe he knew the area where she was killed.
Asked whether a weapon was found, Det Insp Hughes said he was “not in a position to talk about that at the moment.”
“I’ve got no indication he was drug affected”.
He said the arrest was “very satisfying” and police were “not looking for anyone else”.
“We changed our focus this morning and that focus has led to this suspect surrendering,” he said.
“We had crews out in the general area as we identified we had a person of interest in the western suburbs.”
“He handed himself in to authorities at Sunshine. Those members are on way back to office now.
“He is known to police. He has no connection to victim. He was arrested around an hour ago (11.30am).
“It’s very satisfying. We had more than 100 reports over night. Massive resources were poured into it this morning. This is a result of hard work.
“The public should know there are no other suspects we are looking for.
“I believe offender knew the area and we are still putting that together. It smacked to me of someone who knew the area and I think time will tell he did have a connection to that area,” Det Insp Hughes said.
Police searched Mr Price’s home today, removing clothes from his washing line including socks, jocks, shorts, t-shirt and a tracksuit.
A resident who lives in the same block flats described him as “looking a bit dodgy” and often came home late after midnight.
“He was a strange kind of guy. It was his general demeanor – he looked away most times,” the resident said.
The neighbour said he would often been seen wearing a red tshirt.
“When I saw it on TV I said ‘oh s— that looks like him’.”
Neighbours described the unremarkable suburban street, which is a mix of flats and homes, many with picket fences, as quiet and drama free.
In the flat complex live elderly and young couples with children.
One man said the suspect was often seen working on a black car with a friend and “making a lot of noise”.
He said police were hovering in the steet from the early morning.
Earlier the Homicide Squad visited businesses on Johnston St, Abbotsford to collect CCTV footage, believing the man could have taken that route after getting off the city-bound bus at the stop near the intersection of Johnston and Hoddle streets.
Investigators arrived shortly before 11am and first visited cafes, an art studio and a tool shop, on both sides of the road, between the Hoddle St intersection and the Victoria Park train station.
All three businesses have cameras on outside walls.
Police last night released pictures of Mr Price boarding a bus in Doncaster, minutes after he was filmed running near the murder scene on Tuesday.
The pictures show the man on the 7.09pm bus, which he boarded on Doncaster Rd.
Detective Inspector Mick Hughes said earlier that a witness had spoken to the man as he was running from the area.
“The person who spoke to him in Heyington Street said he appeared nervous and got the impression when he asked for directions to Westfield Shoppingtown that he already knew where it was.”
CCTV footage released yesterday afternoon showed a man dressed in black running north along Heyington Ave towards Doncaster Rd with a plastic shopping bag.
In the photos released last night, the man was still carrying the bag. He took off the dark jacket to reveal his red T-shirt.
Detectives were checking to see if the man used a myki card on the bus.
The seizure of a nearby resident’s outdoor tap — which police believe the killer used to wash his bloodied hands — could also prove vital.
They seized the tap from the front yard of Heyington Avenue resident Ermanno Di Battista.
“A police officer told me, ‘We think he washed his hands with your tap’,” Mr De Battista said.
He added: “It’s terrible. It’s very, very bad.”
Masa, a Canterbury Girls’ Secondary College student completing her VCE, was wearing headphones when attacked in daylight.
Locals 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. 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 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.”
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.
“They are just a really carefree happy family — all of them, she said.
“They were always out here kicking a ball. They were just really outdoorsy. They are not cottonwool kids.
“The teen was a happy go lucky youth. She was just really nice and sweet — gorgeous.
“Words just can’t describe it. It’s just unimaginable — totally unimaginable.”
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.”
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