A 24-year-old Indian student has been found raped and murdered after her body was located stuffed inside a suitcase near a canal in Sydney last week.

“On 11 March morning, construction workers found the suitcase containing the woman’s body in a water canal near Meadowbank Park and alerted police,” said a statement issued by the local police.

The victim was identified as Indian student Tosha Thakkar and police were now waiting for the results of a post-mortem examination to determine exactly how she died.

They have confirmed she was last seen alive on March 9.

Thakkar was studying accounting at the Sydney College of Business and IT, which collaborates with Southern Cross University, and was a permanent resident of Australia.

Friends and family of Thakkar told media that they had no idea why she was killed.

The body of Thakkar was stuffed into a suitcase which construction workers spotted in a canal near Meadowbank Park as they were doing maintenance on an oil pipeline.

Police has arrested 19-year-old Daniel Stani-Reginald in connection with the murder and the accused was questioned by detectives and charged with murder and aggravated sexual assault.

Accused Stani-Reginald, who lived close to Thakkar in Croydon, was arrested at an Ashfield motel on weekend and appeared via video link in Parramatta Local Court on Sunday, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The court refused to grant him bail.

The accused glanced at the Indian students who poured into the court in their dozens, filling the chairs and every centimetre of floor space, and then bowed his head for the duration of the hearing.

Charged with aggravated sexual assault and murder, he did not apply for bail and it was formally refused, with the matter adjourned to Burwood Local Court on Monday.

Outside the court, the students held up a poster that read “We want justice for our Indian international friend Tosha Thakkar“.

Anish Popli, the husband of Thakkar’s first cousin, said nobody had cause to attack her.

“She wouldn’t hurt or harm anybody. She had been living in Australia for three or four years and did not fit the profile of a fresh-faced arrival vulnerable to attack.

“It’s not like she’s never been here — she knew her way around,” he said.

Southern Cross University extended its condolences to Thakkar’s family, friends and colleagues, a spokeswoman said on Sunday.

The university is providing counselling and support services to students and staff.