Man appears in court charged with murder of Zara Aleena

·4-min read
Jordan McSweeney has been charged with murdering law graduate Zara Aleena, pictured
Jordan McSweeney has been charged with murdering law graduate Zara Aleena, pictured

A man has been remanded in custody accused of murdering law graduate Zara Aleena, who was attacked as she walked home in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Jordan McSweeney, 29, from Dagenham, east London, appeared at Thames Magistrates' Court, where he was also charged with robbing and attempting to rape the 35-year-old.

He appeared in the dock for the five-minute hearing wearing a grey tracksuit and spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and address.

In charges read to Mr McSweeney, it was said he robbed Miss Aleena of her mobile phone, keys and handbag during the attack. He was also accused of attempted penetration without consent.

A number of Miss Aleena's friends attended court and sat tearfully in the public gallery.

Mr McSweeney did not indicate a plea and was told that due to the allegation of murder, his case will go to the Old Bailey.

He was remanded in custody until the next hearing, which will take place at the Old Bailey on July 1.

Police said Ms Aleena suffered serious head injuries, which was confirmed in a post-mortem examination.

No weapons are thought to have been used.

Zara Aleena - Metropolitan Police/PA Wire
Zara Aleena - Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

In an emotional tribute to the aspiring lawyer, Miss Aleena's family said more needed to be done to keep women safe.

In a statement, they said: "She walked everywhere. She put her party shoes in a bag and donned her trainers. She walked.

"Zara believed that a woman should be able to walk home. Now, her dreams of a family are shattered, her future brutally taken.

"Sadly, Zara is not the only one who has had her life taken at the hands of a stranger. We all know women should be safe on our streets. She was in the heart of her community, 10 minutes from home.

"We all need to be talking about what happened to our Zara, we all need to be talking about this tragedy.

"These last few days have been shocking and unimaginable.

"In a savage, sickening act, she was murdered by a stranger. She's not the only woman who has lost her life like this.

"In the moment of this tragedy, we extend our deepest sympathy and love to the families of Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman, Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, Ashling Murphy and many more women.

"We must prevent and stop violence against women and girls."

Ilford, east London, murder - SWNS
Ilford, east London, murder - SWNS

The statement said Ms Aleena had wanted to become a lawyer since she was five years old and had been close to realising her dream.

They said: "Zara was happy and at a point in her life when her joy was radiating and blossoming.

"She was ready to make a family of her own. Her sense of justice and fairness led her to a life of giving and caring for others - supporting refugees fleeing violence, giving voice to those who had less power.

"She had that special habit of noticing others in need and always put their needs on her agenda."

Floral tributes have been left to Zara Aleena at the scene of where she was attacked in Cranbrook Road, Ilford - Ted Hennessey/PA wire
Floral tributes have been left to Zara Aleena at the scene of where she was attacked in Cranbrook Road, Ilford - Ted Hennessey/PA wire

The University of Westminster said Ms Aleena gained a postgraduate diploma in legal practice last year.

A spokesman for the university said: "We are shocked and deeply saddened by the news that our former law school student and graduate Zara Aleena has lost her life in such a tragic way. Our thoughts are with Zara's family and loved ones at this dreadful time.

"Zara was awarded the LLB with honours in 2011 and the postgraduate diploma in legal practice in 2021. She is remembered clearly and fondly by all who taught her.

"She was a warm, gentle and open young woman, popular with both staff and fellow students. She would often go out of her way to help others."

Other friends of Miss Aleena have been paying tribute to her, with one describing her as the “sweetest girl you could meet”.

One friend, called Sophie, said: “She was just a kind soul, the sweetest girl, she could never harm a fly. Always polite, always bubbly, the sweetest girl that you could ever meet really. So much going for her.”

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