Zara Aleena 'believed women should be safe walking home' as man appears in court

29 June 2022, 08:15 | Updated: 29 June 2022, 15:54

Zara Aleena was killed on Sunday
Zara Aleena was killed on Sunday. Picture: Met Police/Social media/Getty

By Sophie Barnett

A 29-year-old man accused of murdering and trying to rape Zara Aleena has appeared in court.

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Jordan McSweeney has been charged over the aspiring lawyer's death. The 29-year-old, of no fixed address, wore a grey tracksuit during a five minute hearing at Thames Magistrates' Court on Wednesday.

He is charged with murder, attempted rape and robbery.

He did not enter a plea and was denied bail before being remanded in custody ahead of an appearance at the Old Bailey on July 27.

Ms Aleena, 35, was attacked as she walked home in Ilford, East London, early on Sunday.

In a heartbreaking tribute released by Ms Aleena’s family, she was described as "love in human form" and "everybody's friend".

A homeless man has been charged with the murder, attempted rape and robbery of Ms Aleena.

Jordan McSweeney, 29, of no fixed abode, did not speak at Thames Magistrates' Court, wearing a grey tracksuit during a five minute hearing.

No plea was indicated and he was denied bail and remanded in custody. He is due to appear at the Old Bailey on July 27.

Loved ones said Ms Aleena. was "fierce" and believed women should be able to walk home safely.

"She didn't just survive, she thrived," her 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."

They said she was ready to start a family of her own and her joy was "radiating and blossoming".

Read more: Man charged with murder and attempted rape of aspiring lawyer in east London

"Her life has been stolen from us. She has been stolen from us all," they wrote.

"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, ten minutes from home."

They said their loss is "irreparable" and grief "unimaginable" but the warmth and kindness they have been shown is testament to the power of Ms Aleena's spirit.

A police cordon at the scene in Cranbrook Road, Ilford, where a murder investigation is under way following the death of Zara Aleena.
A police cordon at the scene in Cranbrook Road, Ilford, where a murder investigation is under way following the death of Zara Aleena. Picture: Alamy

The aspiring lawyer, who spoke of her dream as young as five years old, had just completed her Legal Practice Course.

She only recently started working for the Crown Prosecution Service, to complete her two-year work placement to become a fully qualified solicitor.

"Now, her dreams of a family are shattered, her future brutally taken," they said.

Ms Aleena was also a carer for her mother, and her grandmother and a "friend to all".

Her family described her "sparkling eyes" and curly, jet-black hair, as they remembered her "glorious laughter" and her "sweet, smiling voice".

She "glued the community together" and was the "rock" of their family.

"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. A carefree spirit, with the most caring heart."

The Metropolitan Police urged women to be "alert but not alarmed" and said a "significant police presence" will be in the area for the coming days.

Her family used the tribute to send a message to the families of other women who have been killed on the streets of London.

They wrote: "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."

Her family will hold a vigil on Saturday to "bring her back where she belonged safely".

The vigil, where people have been asked to wear white, will start at 1.30pm opposite Cranbrook Rise on Cranbrook Road.

Her family wrote: "She will be surrounded by people who knew, loved, cherished and supported her. Help us to walk her home."

Her family has asked that as we walk Zara home in our hearts the mood remains silent and sombre.