As Laa Chol’s soccer team celebrated their 1-0 win on July 22 in Monbulk, Victoria, it was an emotional moment. Missing from the victory celebrations was the 19-year-old who, in the early hours of July 21, was assaulted during a party, resulting in serious injuries.
Despite efforts from paramedics to try and save her, Chol tragically passed away. It was an unexpected end to what should have been a routine night out.
Police were called to the 56th floor apartment of the EQ Tower in Melbourne’s CBD after reports that someone had been stabbed. “They were shouting and screaming and the girl’s scream was incredibly loud ... just screeching,” a resident of the building told news.com.au, adding that it was not the first time a party had got out of control.
Since opening in May 2017, a quarter of the 633 apartments have been advertised regularly as short-stay accommodation and wild bashes were not uncommon. The problem had been growing over the past few months, according to another occupant of the building, who added, “As residents, we feel intimidated that we’re unable to ask them to keep the noise down.”
On the night of the attack, police say a group of youths rented out the $125 per night apartment located on A’Beckett Street. Party attendee Esta Quirino told the Herald Sun that it was a “girls’ night” to celebrate a birthday. But at some point during the night, a group of males arrived and a dispute erupted.
Police have said all people in attendance were in their teens or early twenties and of African-Australian heritage. Members of the public were quick to jump to conclusions the fight was fuelled by “warring factions” in the South Sudanese community, but police refuted these claims. “A suggestion that Laa Chol, the victim, was a member of a gang is just not true,” Commander Stuart Bateson said.
Quirino told the Herald Sun the men showed up uninvited and Chol had seen the birthday girl getting upset and stepped in to help when things escalated. “They were just too much and too powerful,” Quirino said.
A day after her death, Chol, who was aspiring to become a lawyer and was currently completing her second year of legal studies, had been set to take the field alongside her soccer team, the Skye United Football Club, where she had been playing with the senior women’s team since March.
Since the incident, family and friends have gathered at Chol’s family home, where the front door was wide open with numerous pairs of shoes lining the doorstep, and where wailing could be heard from the street as loved ones tried to grasp what had happened.
Since her death, Chol’s shocked friends and family have remembered her on social media as a “positive and bright young lady.” High school friend Mei Sharna Sau, who attended McGuire College with Chol, tells WHO she found out about Chol’s death on social media. “She was very bubbly and very outgoing,” Sau says. “People are just shocked about what happened.”
On July 23, a 17-year-old male was arrested and charged with murder, appearing in court the next day. The court heard that police need to interview multiple witnesses and analyse 50 hours of CCTV footage. Prosecutors will have until October 2 to produce a brief of evidence.
Police confirmed on July 25 that a 16-year-old boy was charged with being an accessory to murder and assault.
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