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Police charge casanova with the murder of 'bubbly' Sarah

Date

Nino Bucci

Sarah Cafferkey sat in a sunny beer garden on the day she disappeared, casually chatting to her older, muscular companion and sipping a drink.

The publican had seen her in Bacchus Marsh's Young and Main Hotel regularly, but was less familiar with the man she was with.

They left after one drink and the publican thought little of it, until Ms Cafferkey, 22, was reported missing the next morning.

On November 17, five days later, her body was found in a house at Point Cook, about 50 kilometres from the hotel.

And on Tuesday, the man police allege she was with that afternoon in the beer garden was arrested. Steven James Hunter was charged on Tuesday night with her murder and faced an out-of-sessions hearing.

Hunter, 47, who has been described as a self-absorbed braggart, was led down the steps of a small flat on a quiet Hawthorn East street about 12.30pm.

He had been staying with an associate in the second-storey flat, which is in a brick block in Caroline Street.

He was arrested without incident by armed police. He was wearing a blue rugby top with a yellow collar, green cargo shorts and no shoes. Neighbours said he looked tired but calm. The self-described Casanova had been identified on Tuesday as a person of interest in the case, with police confirming they were searching for him as he had allegedly lived in the house where Ms Cafferkey's remains were found.

Neighbours said about 30 armed officers, some posing as tradesmen, had been involved in the operation to arrest Hunter.

Bill Sklavenitis was eating lunch with his wife when he heard the police.

They had blocked a rear lane and had four-wheel-drives and motorbikes.

The operation was over in 10 minutes, he said.

''He [Hunter] just looked old and tired. We've got kids running around the street all the time, so you don't like it when it's close to home.''

Two couches, a mattress and a vacuum cleaner were on the lawn outside the white, two-storey block of flats, which remained cordoned off as forensic police searched the flat where Hunter was found.

The balcony of the flat was cluttered with bonsai trees, a round metal table and mops. A horseshoe was fastened to a metal security screen at the front door, and a small ceramic lion's head adorned a nearby wall.

Neighbours said there had rarely been trouble at the flats, which offered government-supported rent.

In Bacchus Marsh, David Bushell, the owner of the Young and Main Hotel, said there had been no sign of anything out of the ordinary between Ms Cafferkey and Hunter during their afternoon drink.

''It's just tragic for the town and the family,'' he said. ''It's just devastating. We probably know Sarah not closely but as one of our patrons … a nice bubbly young girl. It's really sad for the family.''

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