The relative reportedly raised the alarm with the woman’s son, who rushed home and found the alleged intruder inside.
Her son restrained the alleged attacker, 28-year-old Xochil O’Neill from Heidelberg West, who was taken to hospital in a critical condition. Mr O’Neill was in a serious condition in hospital on Thursday morning, where he remained under police guard.
Ms Steenbeek, who was originally from Holland but had lived in Australia for four decades, died at the scene on Tuesday night.
On Thursday morning, grieving friends and neighbours who laid flowers outside her home described Ms Steenbeek as a lovely and quiet woman who was devoted to her two adult sons.
Her former brother-in-law Ranko, who did not wish to provide his surname, said she was a “wonderful woman”.
“I met her 40 years ago, she was a wonderful woman, she didn’t deserve this,” he said.
“Her boys will suffer greatly. It’s just tragic … it’s sad. It’s terrible.
“She was just trying to get her boys off on the right foot,” he said of the yoga and pilates teacher. “She was pretty peaceful.”
Ranko said he hadn’t seen her for many years after she and his brother divorced, but he remembered her as a loving and wonderful woman.
“It’s tragic,” he said. “It’s just sad.”
‘She was a wonderful woman, she didn’t deserve this.’
Ranko, Maud Steenbeek’s former brother-in-law
Messages of love and support to her sons have been written on the bunches of flowers outside their home including.
“Always loved and never forgotten,” one message reads.
Another says: “The boys are safe with us and are not alone.”
Ms Steenbeek moved to Australia from Holland with her partner in the early 1980s.
Her brother is flying out from Holland and is due to arrive in Melbourne on Thursday.
Police are investigating whether Mr O’Neill is the same man neighbours say they saw acting erratically, climbing trees and hiding under cars in the street not long before the fatal attack.
One neighbour said they believed Mr O’Neill was living in a house directly across the road from Ms Steenbeek.
Mr O’Neill is expected to be in custody for some time, police said.
“The exact circumstances surrounding the incident and the man’s motive for attending the property are still being determined,” a police spokeswoman said.
Friend Kerrin Metz said Ms Steenbeek taught yoga and was “very fit and committed to health”.
Ms Metz said she had met Ms Steenbeek’s sister during a trip to Holland in 2014 and then by coincidence ran into Ms Steenbeek in a Melbourne car park.
“I told her that I had met her sister. At first she didn’t believe me … We both could not not believe the coincidence. I invited her to come for dinner soon after. Ms Metz said Ms Steenbeek then came for dinner with her son where they celebrated an “international pizza day” with guests from all over the world.
“We barely knew her but felt like we had known her for years. We would call each other for a quick chat in the last two years,” she said.
“I was so shocked to hear the tragic news this week. Her poor family.”
Ms Steenbeek met her husband while backpacking through Greece as a young woman, she said, before they married and settled in Templestowe.
After they divorced she rented in Heidelberg.
“She was planning to have a sea change and move to her cottage which she was renovating in Corio near Geelong,” said Ms Metz.
One nearby resident said he was outside having a cigarette when he heard a woman shouting on Tuesday night.
“I heard her yelling, ‘get out of the house now’,” he said.
“Then just quiet after that, didn’t hear anything. Then later the sirens. They came quick as anything, I’ll give them that.”
Simone is a crime reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Age, and before that for The Australian in Melbourne.
Zach is a reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org