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Thousands march in Australia over murdered woman

MELBOURNE -- Tens of thousands of people on Sunday marched through the Melbourne suburb where murdered Irish woman Jill Meagher was last seen alive, in a peaceful demonstration against violence.

The 29-year-old vanished in the early hours of September 22 as she walked home from a bar just a few blocks from her Brunswick home.

Her body was found in a shallow grave in a rural area about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the city on Friday. Adrian Ernest Bayley, 41, has been charged with Meagher's rape and murder.

It has been described as a random and opportunistic attack, and the case has gripped Australia.

Floral tributes have piled up outside the bridal boutique where surveillance cameras captured the last known images of Meagher, speaking to a man in a blue jumper police allege is Bayley.

Stunned Brunswick residents held a candlelit vigil on Friday and about 30,000 people from across Melbourne turned out Sunday for a march through the suburb in her memory.

Police had to halt traffic for several blocks to let the crowd pass, and the event organizer Philip Werner said he was humbled by the huge turnout.

“I just wanted to get together with people in a show of solidarity and peaceful, quiet defiance to say we're not going to cower in fear, and we're not going to give up hope for society,” said Werner, who carried a banner that read “Choosing peace, hope, non-violence and solidarity with all women.”

Irish flags and scarves were dotted throughout the crowd and many people carried flowers, which they stopped to lay at makeshift shrines outside the bridal boutique or at a nearby church.

Local mayor John Kavanagh said it had been a spontaneous community response to the tragedy, which has left women in the area shaken and questioning their safety.

“I feel as though there is a black cloud hanging over our city, particularly the suburb of Brunswick,” said Kavanagh.

“We'll be looking at ways in which to recognize the life of Jill over the next few days, but at the moment it's the community's role and right to celebrate her life in which ever manner they feel fit.”

Meagher moved to Australia with her husband from Ireland three years ago.

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