In Brief

What happened to Zara Aleena?

Man charged after law graduate was attacked in Ilford on Sunday morning

A man has been charged with the murder of Zara Aleena, a “fearless” law graduate who had talked to friends about the deaths of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa before she was attacked in Ilford, east London, at the weekend.

The 35-year-old, who was walking back home “after a night out with friends”, was was found in the early hours of Sunday morning with serious head injuries and died later that morning in hospital, reported The Times.

Jordan McSweeney, 29, of no fixed abode, was remanded in custody at Thames Magistrates’ Court today. He is also charged with attempted rape and robbery.

Aleena was walking along Cranbrook Road in Ilford – ten minutes from her home – when she was attacked.

Police described it as a “horrific assault” and said a postmortem had found no evidence of the use of a weapon.

Police were called to the scene at 2.44am after Aleena was discovered by members of the public.

“Aleena wanted to be a solicitor and had a law degree from the University of Westminster,” said The Guardian. “Since May, she had worked as an administrative officer at the Royal Courts of Justice, and previously worked to resettle refugees.”

Her best friend said that Aleena had insisted they would be safe on the city’s streets despite the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, reported the Daily Mail.

Lisa Hodgson said Aleena had told friends “don’t worry, it won’t happen to us” following the deaths of Everard, a marketing manager, and Nessa, a primary school teacher.

“She was very brave,” added Hodgson. “People would always shout at me and her…because we would always be walking late at night, we’ve done it all the time.”

Beal High School, where Aleena had been a student, said she “always had a smile on her face for everyone” and was “first and foremost a kind student, with the biggest heart, who always saw the best in people”.

The University of Westminster, where Aleena had studied law, said it was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the news that its former law-school student and graduate had “lost her life in such a tragic way”.

Her family said she was “pure of heart” with “sparkling eyes" and “glorious laughter,” in a statement shared in full by The Independent. They describe her as a “carer for her mother, and her grandmother”.

Hodgson said her final message from Aleena read: “Miss your beautiful face this weekend xx can’t wait to see you next weekend xxx.”

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