Hundreds gather at vigil for Londoner Zara Aleena

·5-min read

Hundreds of people have gathered at a vigil dedicated to Zara Aleena, who was killed as she walked home from a night-out.

The 35-year-old law graduate was only minutes from her front door when she was attacked while walking along Cranbrook Road in Ilford, east London, on June 26.

On Saturday, nearly a week on from her death, a vigil organised by Ms Aleena’s family is taking place to try to bring comfort to her loved ones while highlighting the epidemic of male violence against women and girls.

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Zara Aleena, 35, was killed on Sunday in Ilford, an area she knew very well (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Many of those on Cranbrook Road have donned white clothing while mourners have left dozens of bouquets of flowers and cards in tribute to Ms Aleena.

Roads have been closed in the area to allow the crowd to walk the 10-minute journey from the scene of her attack to her home.

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.

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The vigil took place in Ilford, east London (Beresford Hodge/PA)

Ms Aleena’s aunt, Farah Naz, stopped yards from the family’s home and turned to the crowd.

She said: “She 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.

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Flowers are left after the vigil (Beresford Hodge/PA)

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.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “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.

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Family, friends and members of the public attended the vigil on Saturday (Beresford Hodge/PA)

“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.”

Speaking to media on Friday, Ms Naz said her niece had been in her own local community, in an area she knew well where she felt safe, when she was attacked.

She said the family was determined to try to “change something” and compel the political leaders of Britain to act “right now to prevent violence”.

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.”

Farah Naz, the maternal aunt of murdered law graduate Zara Aleena, during an interview to the media in east London
Farah Naz, the maternal aunt of murdered law graduate Zara Aleena, during an interview to the media in east London (Yui Mok/PA)

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

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

Those attending the vigil met at 1.30pm opposite Cranbrook Rise on Cranbrook Road in Ilford, commencing the walk at 2.17pm – the time in the morning on June 26 Ms Aleena was attacked.

Her family have requested attendees wear white and remain “silent and sombre” as “we walk Zara home in our hearts”.

In anticipation of the silent vigil for Ms Aleena, women have been sharing photos of their shoes to social media with the hashtag #SafelyHomeInOurShoes.

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

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Jordan McSweeney appearing by video link from HMP Thameside during a hearing at the Old Bailey, London
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Jordan McSweeney, 29, appearing by video link from HMP Thameside during a hearing at the Old Bailey (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

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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