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14 Aug 2022

Man appears in court charged with murder of law graduate Zara Aleena

Man appears in court charged with murder of law graduate Zara Aleena

A 29-year-old man has been remanded in custody charged with the murder of 35-year-old Zara Aleena in east London.

Jordan McSweeney, from Church Elm Lane, Dagenham, east London, is charged with murder, as well as attempted rape and robbery, Thames Magistrates’ Court heard on Wednesday.

Ms Aleena was attacked as she walked home from a night out along Cranbrook Road in Ilford, towards Gants Hill station, in the early hours of Sunday.

McSweeney wore a grey tracksuit to the five-minute hearing, in which no plea was indicated.

His face was expressionless and he spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and address.

In charges read to McSweeney, it was said he robbed Ms Aleena of her mobile phone, keys and handbag during the attack.

He was also accused of attempted penetration without consent.

McSweeney was told due to the allegation of murder his case will go to the Old Bailey.

He was denied bail and remanded in custody to attend the Old Bailey on July 27.

McSweeney will attend a bail hearing at the court on July 1.

Some of Ms Aleena’s family and friends were present in court.

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

No weapons are thought to have been used.

In a tribute released after her death, Ms Aleena’s family 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.”

The statement said Ms Aleena, a law graduate, had wanted to be a lawyer since the age of five, and described her as “a carefree spirit, with the most caring heart”.

“Zara was happy and at a point in her life when her joy was radiating and blossoming,” her family said.

“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.”

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

A spokeswoman 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.

“We have pastoral support available for our students and colleagues affected by the tragic news.”

According to reports, Ms Aleena was working as an administrative officer at the Royal Courts of Justice.

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