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Zara Aleena: Hundreds turn out for vigil to ‘walk home’ murdered Londoner

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 03/07/2022 Bill McLoughlin

Hundreds of mourners have turned out in east London for a silent vigil in honour of murdered law graduate, Zara Aleena.

The 35-year-old was killed just minutes from her front door as she walked down Cranbrook Road, in Ilford on June 26.

A week on from her death, crowds dressed in white to be able to finally “walk her home”, the family said.

Members of Ms Aleena’s family led the crowd as it began tracing the walk home she would have taken. Many held flowers and pictures of Ms Aleena and wore T-shirts bearing her image.

Ms Aleena’s aunt, Farah Naz, stopped yards from the family’s home and turned to the crowd before addressing the crowd: “Zara was on the home stretch.

“Thank you so much for doing the walk and holding her in your hearts, praying for her, keeping her safe on this journey.

“At this point now, we ask you to go home and thank you so much for being here today because this is our Zara, this is our issue, this is something that we must all change, it must never happen again. Thank you for being here.”

She then invited those who attended to place the flowers they had been carrying together on the ground.

Marai Larasi, a member of campaign group Million Women Rise, said: “We’re here to support the family, we’re here to bring her home in spirit, we’re here to honour her life, and we’re here with absolute exhaustion because we’re tired of vigils, we’re tired of crying and we’re tired of having to bury women of all ages and stages in life.”

Video: Hundreds show love and support at vigil for Londoner Zara Aleena (PA Media)


Speaking on Saturday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan added: “Zara was an incredible woman and an inspiration to us all. She rightly believed that every woman should be able to walk home safely and today her loved ones and so many from the local community and across the country came to finish the journey she started. My thoughts and prayers are with them all today.

“I’m clear that women should not have to change their behaviour and every woman and girl is entitled to be safe, and to feel safe – whatever the time of day and wherever they are.

“We owe it to Zara to do everything possible to bring an end to violence against women and girls.”

Zara Aleena (Family Handout/Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media) © Provided by Evening Standard Zara Aleena (Family Handout/Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

In what was described as “sombre and silent” experience, her aunt, Ms Naz, said said the family was determined to try to “change something” and compel the political leaders of Britain to act “right now to prevent violence”.

Speaking ahead of the vigil, she said: “My niece was not ignorant to the fact that women get hurt. This isn’t about making the streets safe, it’s about changing the mindset.”

Weeping, Ms Naz added: “We will never get through this, but the walk will help us.”

The vigil will take the form of a silent walk that traces the route Ms Aleena had been taking but never got to complete, “to bring her back where she belonged safely”.

The 35-year-old Londoner had been returning home from a night out when she was dragged, kicked and stamped on, prosecutors said.

A post-mortem examination found she had suffered multiple serious injuries.

Jordan McSweeney, 29, of Church Elm Lane, Dagenham, east London, appeared at the Old Bailey on Friday accused of murder, attempted rape and robbery.

He entered no pleas and was remanded in custody.

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