New South Wales homicide detectives have extradited a Colombian man from the Caribbean island of Aruba on charges of murdering Sydney trans woman Kimberley McRae.
Police found McRae, 69, dead in her Coogee unit in suspicious circumstances in January this year.
After an investigation police accused Colombian student Hector Enrique Valencia, now 21, of murdering McRae.
By February, homicide detectives got an arrest warrant for Valencia. They alleged he left the country shortly after McRae’s death, and by then was in Aruba.
McRae worked in the sex industry at the time of her death, and police believed Valencia met McRae for the purpose of sex.
Then on February 26, Aruban police officers arrested Valencia in cooperation with the Australian request.
The man remained in Aruban custody as Australian strike force detectives worked to seek his extradition to Sydney at a time COVID-19 was restricting overseas travel.
Last week, four Sydney detectives travelled to Aruba. The local authorities released Valencia into the Australian officers’ custody.
They returned to Sydney on Tuesday morning. Officers then took the man to Surry Hills Police Station, where they will charge him with the outstanding warrant for murder.
Valencia, a Colombian national, did not get bail and will appear in Central Local Court via video link on Tuesday.
COVID-19 delayed extradition of murder accused
Homicide Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty said detectives “worked tirelessly” to get Kimberley McRae and her family justice.
“Today’s result could not have been achieved without the assistance and support of our international law enforcement partner agencies,” Det Supt Doherty said.
“Particularly the Korps Politie Aruba (Aruba Police Force) and the Australian Federal Police.
“This has been a difficult and complex investigation for detectives.
“[They have] spent months liaising with our partners to safely navigate the challenges and restrictions impacting worldwide travel due to COVID-19.”
As a result, Det Supt Doherty said the four Homicide Squad detectives who went to Aruba were now in 14-day hotel quarantine.
He said the officers will undergo all necessary COVID-19 health checks before returning to work.
McRae’s family thanked NSW Police for their “tireless” work and support on the case.
“It is incredibly difficult to express in words what our family has been through since Kimberley’s death,” twin sister Karen McRae said on Tuesday.
“Kimberley was a cherished member of our family with a unique and vivacious personality.
“We grieve daily for Kimberley and are still struggling to comprehend that we will never see her again.
“We also wish to extend our sincere appreciation to the NSW Police Force detectives who have supported our family and worked tirelessly to help bring justice for Kimberley, particularly under the challenging circumstances imposed by COVID-19.”
Kimberley McRae mourned at Coogee candlelight memorial
Following her death, Kimberley McRae was remembered at a candlelight vigil in Coogee in January.
Organisations SWOP, the Scarlet Alliance, Trans Pride Australia, The Gender Centre and Trans Action Warrang joined friends and locals to mourn McRae.
A spokesperson for Trans Action Warrang said she was a well-known figure in her local area. They said each group remembered her in “beautiful speeches filled with love and care” at the vigil.
“Kimberley’s neighbour also spoke about how much her local community loved her,” they said.
“Local children from the area made a poster with their favourite memories of Kimberley written down.
“One child knew Kimberley as ‘a Barbie mermaid’ due to her kind nature and long blonde hair.
“Vale Kimberley. We won’t ever forget you.”
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