A Melbourne woman found dead in Georgia is suspected to have been murdered, with a friend revealing chilling details of her final phone call.
Shanae Edwards, 31, is believed to have been an English teacher in Tbilisi, whose body was found just outside the city on July 31.
The discovery followed an hours-long search on the slopes of Mount Mtatsminda, overlooking the capital city.
Ms Edwards, also known as Shanae Brooke, went missing on July 30 after going for a hike.
She was last seen at the Church of Mikhail of Tver.
A volunteer search party was launched to find her after she called a friend in California while she was being attacked.
She was not heard from again.
A document prepared by the search party, seen by NCA NewsWire, said Ms Edwards screamed for help on the phone and was heard saying “please let me go, okay … just let me go.”
Local media have reported authorities are treating her death as a murder.
The Georgian Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri was quoted in Agenda.ge as saying: “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.
Friends have posted tributes online to the kind, generous and free spirited young woman.
“You were the strongest woman I know, an incredible human being, always the life of the party, always radiant and positive no matter what life threw at you,” one person wrote.
“My heart is heavy with sadness to know she has left us. I know she will be greatly missed and I send my deepest condolences to her family during this tragic time,” said another.
“I feel truly honored to have crossed paths with such an incredible woman”.
There are unconfirmed online reports within the Tbilisi expat community of other women being followed by an unknown man near Mount Mtatsminda.
The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs confirmed in a statement that police had launched an investigation into Ms Edwards’ death.
“The Old Tbilisi Police Main Division of Tbilisi Police Department under the Ministry of Internal Affairs has launched an investigation on the fact of illegal restriction of freedom under Article 143 of the Criminal Code of Georgia,” the department said.
“Within the frames of the ongoing investigation, appropriate forensic examination will be appointed. All necessary operative and investigative activities are underway.”
A spokesman from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said an officer from the Australian Embassy in Turkey, accredited to Georgia, had travelled to Tbilisi to liaise with Georgian authorities.
“The Australian Government offers its deepest condolences to the family of an Australian woman whose death is being investigated by authorities in Tbilisi, Georgia,” the DFAT spokesman said.
“DFAT is providing consular assistance to the woman’s family. Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further detail.”