Woman is raped and murdered while hiking up a mountain in Eastern Europe

Woman is raped and murdered while hiking up a mountain in Eastern Europe

An Australian teacher has been raped and murdered while hiking in Eastern Europe, with her terrifying final moments heard by a friend over the phone.

Shanae Brooke Edwards, 31, was hiking Mount Mtatsminda alone above Tbiilsi, Georgia, when she was ambushed on Friday and her body found the next day.

Ms Edwards was on a call to a friend in the US while trekking when she was heard shouting 'take your hands off me' - before the call cut out.

Shanae Brooke Edwards, 31, was hiking Mount Mtatsminda alone above Tbiilsi, Georgia, when she was ambushed on Friday and her body found the next day.

Ms Edwards called the friend moments earlier, who heard her pleading 'please let me go, ok… just let me go'.

She was seen on CCTV footage leaving her apartment at 3.35pm on Friday with her hair tied up, wearing a black hiking outfit and carrying a green bag.

That afternoon, Natalia Karikh posted on a local expats Facebook group that she heard 'a woman screaming at the trails under Mtatsminda Park' about an hour after Ms Edwards had left home.

Mtatsminda Park is a booming tourist park with several adventure rides on top of Mount Mtatsminda.

Ms Edwards has been remembered as a kind and caring person with a love of adventure and animals. Her death is being treated as a premeditated murder by the Georgian authorities.

Another woman wrote in the same group claiming to have witnessed a disturbing sight on the mountain about the same time Ms Edwards went missing.

She claimed to have seen a man having 'aggressive' sex with a woman about 50m away, while her and her partner were walking 'exactly one day before the missing expat'.

Others urged her to report what she saw to police, while several reported separate incidents of harassment by one or more men in the same area previously.

Members of the group helped to organise a search for Ms Edwards following the call. Her phone was tracked to the Mtatsminda Park but early searches proved fruitless.

Ms Edwards' body was retrieved from near a mountain trail by a searchers including police with rescue dogs, volunteers and her friends, on Saturday.

She had been teaching English in the former Soviet republic for two years and travelling the world since 2016, when she left Melbourne.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia launched an investigation into her death, which is being treated as a premeditated murder.

Dozens of tributes to the 'kind' and 'adventurous' Ms Edwards flooded social media this week, many with memories from around the world as she travelled.

Georgian Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri told local media the suspect was believed to be a Georgian national - although that person was not yet in custody.

'The ministry and police officers are doing their best to find the murderer… We [the Ministry of Internal Affairs] have some information, though I can not talk about it due to the interests of the investigation,' he said.

Ms Edwards posted a photo of herself on a mountain with the caption 'Joy' on Instagram on Thursday.

She volunteered with various causes in Melbourne including with homeless people and was a passionate animal lover, having rescued stray cats in Australia and Europe.

Dozens of tributes to the 'kind' and 'adventurous' Ms Edwards flooded social media this week, many with memories from around the world as she travelled.

Many remembered how she helped them find their feet in a foreign country when they arrived, or how they met her when she moved in.

Elina Osmanova, posted a video of Ms Edwards after she adopted a cat and her kittens, saying she had cut short a holiday to care for them.

'She was that kind of person. Loving and caring. I miss her so much,' she wrote.

Another post called for help in taking care of and finding homes for a female street cat and her four kittens Ms Edwards was looking after.

'Shanae helped this cat that came to her house to give a birth. She let the furry family stay for a few months till the kittens grew a bit,' they wrote.

'She taught them to go to cat's toilet, vaccinated and treated from parasites all of them, and neutered the mom cat.

'Her friends know how she loved them!'

Lina Kha posted to Instagram that Ms Edwards was 'one of the truest people I ever known. The warmest friend anyone can ever find'.

'I never told you how dear you were to me... You didn't deserve to go like this, but I'm glad I had a chance to spend some moments with you,' she wrote.

'You are forever in my mind. Anytime I'd ride a bike and play in my head Taking a Ride With My Best Friend by Depeche.

'Anytime I'd see an adorable Georgian house, anytime I'd stand on a top of a hill and see beautiful nature - I'd see you.'

'Shanae was always up for an adventure, so kind-hearted to those around her, full of laughter and a shining light. I lack the words to fully express what I feel, however I only have love for her,' Sarah Richards wrote.

Another friend, Natalie Curro, described her as 'selfless, caring and tough as nails'.

Mr Gomelauri confirmed there were reports of women being followed by men in Mtatsminda Park, but denied they had been assaulted.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs said it was was providing consular assistance to Ms Edwards' family.

'The Australian government offers its deepest condolences to the family of an Australian woman whose death is being investigated by authorities in Tbilisi, Georgia,' a DFAT statement read.
Woman is raped and murdered while hiking up a mountain in Eastern Europe
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