Detectives have issued a fresh appeal to the public to help find the killer of teacher Sabina Nessa as they revealed she disappeared on a five-minute walk to meet a friend in a bar that she never reached.
Police said they were making “good progress” and carrying out “intensive searches” but wanted information from anyone who saw Ms Nessa on Friday evening or any suspicious behaviour in or around Cator Park in Kidbrooke, south-east London, where she was found dead the following day.
They said they believed that the popular 28-year-old was murdered as she walked across the park after leaving her home in Astell Road shortly before 8.30pm on Friday and heading to meet a friend at The Depot bar in Pegler Square, Kidbrooke Village.
As an outpouring of tributes flood social media, Ms Nessa’s sister hailed the teacher as her “inspiration” as well as her “beautiful, talented and caring” sibling.
She wrote: “My beautiful, talented & caring sister. My inspiration to always put myself first & never let anybody put me down. Never in my life did I or my sisters or my mum or dad think this could happen to us. May Allah grant her JannahAmeen #SabinaNessa.”
Ms Nessa was murdered on a way to a first date, a friend has claimed.
It emerged the teacher was killed when she made the five minute journey to a pub to reportedly meet a mystery man in local pub The Depot, in London on Friday.
The friend didn’t know whether Ms Nessa knew the man she was going to meet or whether they had met online.
A friend told MailOnline: “Sabina was going on a date on Friday night when she left her flat. It was a first date. She was going to meet this guy in the local pub, The Depot.
“I don’t know whether they knew each other before or they had met online but I know it was a first date.”
Thursday’s new appeal followed an emotional tribute to Ms Nessa — a teacher at Rushey Green Primary in Catford — from her cousin Zubel Ahmed, who described her as “a beautiful soul”, and came as MPs and campaigners called for renewed efforts to improve women’s safety in the wake of the killing and the murders of Sarah Everard and others.
Sabina Nessa's journey should have taken just five minutes but she never made it to her destination.
Did you see Sabina or anything suspicious in or around Cator Park on Friday evening?
📞 If you have info please call the incident room on 020 8721 4266. pic.twitter.com/P7fAENQKdR
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) September 23, 2021
London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned of an “epidemic” of violence against women and girls. He called for men to be “allies” in tackling the problem and said that new legislation to make misogyny a hate crime and outlaw street harassment should be introduced as part of the solution.
The Met on Thursday released another video appealing for information about Ms Nessa’s death.
Attention remained focused on Kidbrooke, however, where Met detective inspector Joe Garrity, who is leading the murder investigation, urged the public to come forward with further information. “Our investigation is making good progress and specialist officers remain at the crime scene carrying out intensive searches and inquiries,” he said. “We are incredibly grateful for all of those who have so far come forward and spoken to us but we believe there are still others who may have information that could help.
“If you think you saw Sabina, or any suspicious behaviour in or around the park on Friday evening, please speak to us. Sabina’s journey should have taken just over five minutes but she never made it to her destination. We know the community are rightly shocked by this murder — as are we — and we are using every resource available to find the individual responsible.”
my beautiful talented & caring sister❤️my inspiration to always put myself first & never let anybody put me down💗never in my life did I or my sisters or my mum or dad think this could happen to us. May Allah grant her Jannah🤍Ameen #SabinaNessa pic.twitter.com/wVUIaR8WuG
— ✨ (@jaxjn02) September 22, 2021
Police added that the body was found at about 5.30pm on Saturday near the OneSpace community centre within Cator Park and that a post-mortem examination had proved inconclusive.
Flowers, cards and candles have been left at the scene and a vigil, supported by campaign group Reclaim the Streets, is planned on Friday night.
MPs said more action to improve women’s safety was needed, with Lewisham East MP Janet Daby saying she was “devastated for the family and friends of Sabina Nessa, and all those who knew her at Rushey Green School”.
She added: “Women of all ages should feel safe to walk around their neighbourhoods, workplaces and parks. Instead, we are feeling an increased need to look over our shoulders and hurry home. I hope that this culture of fear for women will change for my daughter’s generation.
“We need reassurance from the Government that they recognise the scale of the problem and have an action plan to tackle it.”
Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum said: “In the last six months, we have been reminded that not everyone is safe to walk home at night. The murders of Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman and now Sabina Nessa are all instances of gender-based violence. This is a societal issue that must be acted on by our government.”
Shadow policing minister Sarah Jones said: “Just last week Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services’ report described violence against women and girls as an ‘epidemic’ and that ‘fundamental cross-system change’ is urgently needed.
“We need radical changes to tackle this epidemic, bring perpetrators to justice, and better support women who are victims of violence and abuse."
Andrea Simon, from the End Violence Against Women Coalition, claimed that violence against black and ethnic minority women was “often minimised” and that the failure of the criminal justice system to bring more perpetrators to justice showed that major improvements were needed.
“We must not risk viewing these murders as isolated incidents. Violence against women is so deeply normalised that women must constantly carry out personal safety work — assessing our surroundings, researching the safest route, carrying keys in our hands and sharing our location with friends. Placing the burden on women to keep ourselves safe results in victim blaming and fails to address men’s violent behaviour.”
Meanwhile, Ms Nessa’s cousin Mr Ahmed said that her parents were “absolutely shocked” and “inconsolable” after hearing about “their daughter being taken away from them by some cowardly man”.
He described Ms Nessa, originally from Sandy in Bedfordshire, as “the most caring person — kindest, sweetest girl you could meet”. She had been teaching for two years and “loved kids”.
Detectives are still hoping that drivers who passed close to Cator Park on Friday evening might have dash-cam footage that can reveal vital clues. They believe that the park was likely to have been busy at the time that Ms Nessa was killed and that visitors to the OneSpace community centre might have seen something.
Anyone with information should call the incident room on 020 8721 4266 or Crimestoppers completely anonymously on 0800 555 111.