The woman murdered in a vicious knife attack in Sydney has been named as Michaela Dunn.
The 24-year-old was allegedly killed at an apartment on Clarence Street in Sydney’s CBD on Tuesday by Mert Ney, a 20-year-old who police said had a history of mental health issues.
Dunn was a former Rosebank College and Notre Dame university student from Sydney’s west. On Wednesday her family issued a statement through the New South Wales police requesting privacy.
“While her family appreciate the support offered by the community, they have requested their privacy at this difficult time,” the statement read.
Dunn’s mother told Nine News her daughter was a “beautiful, loving woman who had studied at university and travelled widely”.
Friend Joan Westenberg said she had known Dunn since she was 14 and told Guardian Australia she was “an incredible person. In every single way”.
“Her sister and I were together for six years, and Mikki was like my baby sister,” she said. “I cannot describe how sad and how broken I am at this moment. I loved this kid. She was incredible.”
Twenty-year-old Ney, from Marayong, near Blacktown in western Sydney, was arrested on Tuesday after he allegedly stabbed a 41-year-old woman at a hotel in the CBD and was later restrained by members of the public – lauded as “heroes” by police – who used cafe chairs and a milk crate to pin him down.
About an hour after his arrest, Dunn’s body was found inside an apartment nearby in Clarence Street. Police said on Wednesday she sustained a laceration to her neck from a knife attack and was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Dunn had been working as a sex worker from her Clarence Street apartment, and police said their initial inquiries indicated Ney had attended the unit for an appointment at about 1.30pm. He was captured on CCTV leaving the building at about 1.50pm.
Writing on Twitter, Westenberg said she was angry that “violence has taken another victim”.
“Selfishly I am so angry that the victim is a young woman I deeply respected and cared about,” she said. “Mikki was a true delight to know. The violence in this country cannot continue. It cannot.”
On Wednesday the chief executive of the Sex Worker Outreach Program, or Swop, Cameron Cox, told Guardian Australia the community was “gutted” by Dunn’s death.
“I was up all night speaking to people about it,” he said.
“Everybody is just devastated, she was a well-liked and loved member of her community. We’re one of the only occupations which forms into such a tight community because of our marginalisation and everyone has felt this.”
In a joint statement Swop and the Scarlett Alliance, said it was “devastated by the series of random and senseless acts of violence” in Sydney’s CBD.
“All victims involved in this incident were valued members of their families and communities ... Michaela Dunn was a woman, a community member, and a whole individual who will be missed and mourned.
“Sex workers regularly face barriers to accessing justice and reporting crimes against us, because so often the violence is attributed to our work ... They are equally deserving of empathy and consideration when befallen by tragedy.
“We are mourning the loss of a valued and loved human being. We offer the victim’s family our deepest and most sincere condolences at this time. Our collective hearts are heavy.”
Outside her building on Wednesday, Dunn’s neighbour Ketki Gupta told Guardian Australia she had been home at the time of the alleged murder but that the first she heard about the attack was on the news.
“I didn’t hear anything,” she said. “I was at home watching the news about the attack and then saw it was our building.”
Her husband, Anshul Gupta, said he had seen Dunn in passing. “We didn’t see her often, just heard her coming home sometimes, that sort of thing,” he said.
Australian Associated Press named the 41-year-old woman who Ney allegedly stabbed inside the Hotel CBD after Dunn’s death as Linda Bo.
Bo is an employee at shipping company Cosco, which has an office nearby, and on Wednesday was in a stable condition in hospital.
“You would say with some confidence that he went on the street to kill more people, and the fact she’s alive is a miracle,” police commissioner Mick Fuller said on Wednesday.
Ney underwent surgery at Royal Prince Alfred hospital for a cut to his knee but was expected to leave hospital on Wednesday afternoon. He was expected to be charged with murder, as well as serious assault.