Neighbours say CCTV shows Zara Aleena, 35, being followed and attacked


‘She just decided to walk home because it was close by’: Neighbours say CCTV shows Zara Aleena, 35, being followed and attacked from behind as she returned from night out in London in murder compared to attacks on Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard

  • Zara Aleena’s cousin said she was a ‘bubbly, empathetic person’ in tribute to lawyer who graduated last year
  • Nadia, 42, a school teacher, said the ‘gentle soul’ ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’ was working at Royal Courts of Justice
  • Man, 29, has been arrested on suspicion of murder and is being questioned by detectives in east London
  • Attack was caught on CCTV and showed Zara being followed and then repeatedly beaten around the head
  • Murder is feared to have been sexually motivated but police would not comment on whether she was raped

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The violent death of a law graduate ambushed and beaten to death in an ‘opportunist stranger attack’ is already being compared to the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa as police question a 29-year-old man neighbours claim was caught in the act on CCTV.

Zara Aleena, 35, died from severe head injuries after she was followed and attacked in the street while walking to her mother’s house in Cranbrook Road, Ilford, after a night out with friends in central London in the early hours of Sunday.

Her death has left her family heartbroken and sparked a 36-hour manhunt that ended yesterday afternoon in the arrest of a 29-year-old man from the area on suspicion of her murder. He remains in custody today.

Police were handed CCTV of the attack by a resident who lived across the street. He told The Times: ‘The guy came from the back, he was following her. It happened on the main road. He punched her a few times.’ 

Investigators believe the perpetrator did not use any weapons, just his fists. Zara’s murder is feared to have been sexually motivated but police would not comment on whether she was raped or sexually assaulted.

The unprovoked attack on Miss Aleena is already being compared to the murders of teacher Sabina Nessa, 28, and marketing manager Sarah Everard, 33, who were both attacked while out alone in London. Both their killers were opportunistic and chose them at random.

Miss Aleena’s friend Nadia, 42, a school teacher, said: ‘She just decided to walk home because it was close by.. nothing like that has ever happened here.

‘She wanted to borrow some heels and some mascara from me that night, but I couldn’t answer my phone as I was busy. She was a gentle soul, she wouldn’t hurt a fly. She just passed her law degree and was working in central London. She wanted to become a lawyer so she could provide for herself and her family’.

Aspiring lawyer Zara Aleena, 35, was murdered in the early hours of Sunday morning in Ilford, East London

Aspiring lawyer Zara Aleena, 35, was murdered in the early hours of Sunday morning in Ilford, East London

Aspiring lawyer Zara Aleena, 35, was murdered in the early hours of Sunday morning in Ilford, East London. A 29-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of her murder

The road where Zara was found with horrific injuries was just a short distance from Gants Hill Station

Zara's death is the latest murder of a woman walking alone in London after the murders of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard

Zara's death is the latest murder of a woman walking alone in London after the murders of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard

Zara’s death is the latest murder of a woman walking alone in London after the murders of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard

The Met have closed the road and put a cordon in place at the scene while urging women to be 'alert' but not 'alarmed' by the attack

The Met have closed the road and put a cordon in place at the scene while urging women to be ‘alert’ but not ‘alarmed’ by the attack

Detectives were last night questioning a 29-year-old man arrested on suspicion of murdering the University of Westminster graduate.

Miss Aleena’s cousin described her as a ‘bubbly, high-empathy person’ and said the family were devastated.

Friends recalled her excitement as she asked to borrow high heels and mascara for a night out that ended in tragedy.

Miss Aleena had been working at the Royal Courts of Justice as an administration officer while she sought a trainee solicitor role that would allow her to embark on a legal career, said her cousin, who asked not to be named.

‘She was a lovely person,’ he added. ‘It’s such a shock for the family. She wanted to become a lawyer, to make a success of herself so she could support the family.

‘She was always bubbly, brought life to the room, a warm, high-empathy person. She looked after her mum and her gran and was a very family-oriented person.’

Scotland Yard said Miss Aleena was found badly beaten at about 2.44am not far from her home in Ilford, north-east London. Paramedics took her to hospital but she died of her injuries shortly afterwards.

People living nearby said there was a helicopter hovering over the area from 3am as police hunted for Miss Aleena’s killer.

Mustafa Meric, 56, said his son’s friend lived opposite and his CCTV had captured footage – which he had passed to the police – of the attack.

‘It is not the safest of areas,’ he added. ‘I fear for my wife and kids. I’ve told them to stop [going out late] for now.’

Chief Superintendent Stuart Bell, of Scotland Yard, said ‘it is now believed that she was the victim of an opportunist stranger attack’ and there was no evidence that weapons had been used.

‘Tackling violence against women and girls is an absolute priority for the Met. Every day our officers are working with partners across the capital to improve safety in our public spaces,’ he added.

‘Women should not have to change their behaviour and should be able to go about their business, feeling safe, any time of day or night. It’s our job to ensure that happens – but officers cannot be in all places at all times. I would urge our community, especially women, to report any suspicious or unwanted behaviour and seek help if you feel threatened.’

Miss Aleena’s LinkedIn page says she graduated with a law degree from the University of Westminster in October last year.

She had been working at the Royal Courts of Justice since May but was seeking a paralegal or trainee solicitor position.

The Labour MP for Ilford South, Sam Tarry, said: ‘It looks like, on the face of it, a random attack. This is something out of the ordinary. The Met and local authority are moving heaven and earth to ensure people’s safety and put the perpetrator behind bars.

‘We will do everything to remember this woman who lost her life in the most horrendous way.’

Police continue to work in Cranbrook Road, Redbridge, after Zara Aleena was murdered on Sunday morning

Police continue to work in Cranbrook Road, Redbridge, after Zara Aleena was murdered on Sunday morning

The Met Police have launched a murder probe into the death of the victim who was found with serious head injuries in Redbridge, Ilford this morning. Pictured: The cordon and forensics at the scene

The Met Police have launched a murder probe into the death of the victim who was found with serious head injuries in Redbridge, Ilford this morning. Pictured: The cordon and forensics at the scene 

She was attacked while walking along Cranbrook Road in the direction of Gants Hill Station and the high street. Pictured: Police talk to a driver as they close the road

She was attacked while walking along Cranbrook Road in the direction of Gants Hill Station and the high street. Pictured: Police talk to a driver as they close the road 

He added: ‘We want our community to be free of fear and go about their daily business.

‘People do need to be reassured – there will be a flood of police on the streets. I don’t think people should be bowed or cowed into fear, but of course people are going to be scared.

‘I would say to people, check your cameras, your dashcams, any small clue could help.’

Rafia Ahmed, who lives nearby, said she and her friends will now only walk in groups at night.

‘Because it’s literally on our doorstep it scares you. As a female you think twice about going out by yourself’, she told the BBC.

Shopkeeper Kuldip Singh said he was concerned by the level of violence in the area.

He said: ‘This one was quite brutal. It was a young lady but people don’t really feel safe in this location as much as they used to.

‘If I was an elderly person or a female, especially in the winter months, walking through this road you could be at risk.’

Subhash, 60, who lives just off Cranbrook Road, said he ‘worries’ for other local women. He said: ‘It’s not just my daughter, it’s other daughters, other girls, other women in the area. It’s quite a serious matter, how safe are you in your own area.’

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