An Australian university professor and her sister have been found dead in a shallow grave in the Argentinian city of Mendoza over the weekend.
The close-knit academic community of agricultural scientists in NSW are in shock following the discovery of Lily Pereg, 54, the professor of Microbiology at the University of New England, and her sister, Pyrhia Sarussi, 63.
Police found the pair at the bottom of a property occupied by Ms Sarussi's son, Gil Pereg, 36. Police prosecutors have arrested Mr Pereg and charged him with murder.
Ms Pereg was appointed a full professor at UNE just days before she travelled to the US and on to Argentina. The pair were last heard from on January 11, local media reported.
Prior to her departure, she told colleagues she was excited at the prospect of catching up with her sister and nephew in Mendoza.
Born in Israel, Lily Pereg studied science for her bachelor’s degree in Tel Aviv, and then completed a Master’s degree in Israel, specialising in the nitrogen fixation of seagrass.
She moved to Australia in the mid '90s after being awarded a scholarship to complete a PHD at the University of Sydney. She transferred to UNE in the early 2000s, where she was an
associate professor before her recent promotion to full professor.
"We the family, are shocked. Gilad Pereg, Pyrchia Sarusi's son, standing accused of murdering his Monther and Aunt [sic]," the women's family said in a statement on GoFundMe.
"We at the family are at owe and humbled by the outpouring of support and love, worldwide. Your love carried us and will help us recover from a huge tragedy. There will never be an explanation."
The family had been using the website to try to raise funds to help find the sisters and had so far collected more than $7500. The funds will now be donated to charity.
According to local media reports, police have located film footage of the two sisters entering the main shed at Mr Pereg’s property but there is no film record or witness accounts of them leaving.
They were found on a lot beside the home of Mr Pereg, according to prosecutor Claudia Rios.
At least one of the women was shot, autopsy results showed. Local media are reporting the victim had suffered three gunshot wounds while the other showed signs of having been dragged.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was "providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian woman who died in Argentina. Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment".
The last time the two women contacted family members in Israel was in the early hours of Saturday, January 12. Mr Pereg himself reported the two missing on Monday, January 14.
Ivan Kennedy, emeritus professor of Agricultural Chemistry at Sydney University, said Ms Pereg would be remembered fondly.
“We can only pay tribute to Lily as a wonderful person and a true scientist with unlimited potential, so sadly cut short – a full professor for only 10 days," he said.
The UNE website describes Dr Pereg as a microbial ecologist with 25 years experience as a researcher in plant and social microbiology.
She obtained a PhD from the University of Sydney in 1998 and gained later worked for the Institute for Genetics at the University of Cologne in Germany before joining UNE in 2001.
smh.com.au with AP