Hundreds gather at a vigil for Londoner Zara Aleena


Hundreds of people gathered at a vigil dedicated to Zara Aleena, who was killed on her way home from a night out.

The 35-year-old law graduate was just minutes from her front door when she was attacked as she walked along Cranbrook Road in Ilford, east London, on June 26 .

On Saturday, nearly a week after her death, a vigil organized by Ms Aleena’s family is taking place in an attempt to comfort her loved ones while shedding light on the epidemic of male violence against women and girls.

Zara Aleena, 35, was killed on Sunday in Ilford, a neighborhood she knew very well (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Many of those in Cranbrook Road donned white clothes as mourners left dozens of bouquets of flowers and cards in tribute to Ms Aleena.

Roads were closed in the area to allow crowds to walk the 10-minute journey from the scene of their attack to their homes.

Members of Ms Aleena’s family led the crowd as she began to retrace the path she would have taken to return home.

Many held flowers and pictures of Ms Aleena and wore T-shirts of her.

Death of Zara Aleena
The vigil took place in Ilford, east London (Beresford Hodge/PA)

Ms Aleena’s aunt, Farah Naz, stopped a few yards from the family home and turned towards the crowd.

She said: “She was on the home stretch. Thank you so much for doing the walk and keeping her in your hearts, praying for her, keeping her safe on this journey.

“At this point now we are asking you to go home and thank you very much for being here today because this is our Zara, this is our problem, this is something we all need to change, this does not must never happen again. Thanks to be here.”

She then invited those present to lay the flowers they were carrying together on the ground.

Death of Zara Aleena
Flowers are left after the wake (Beresford Hodge/PA)

Marai Larasi, a member of campaign group Million Women Rise, said: “We are here to support the family, we are here to bring her home in spirit, we are here to honor her life and we are here with utter exhaustion. because we are tired of wakes, we are tired of crying, and we are tired of having to bury women of all ages and all stages of life.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Zara was an incredible woman and an inspiration to us all.

“She rightly believed that every woman should be able to walk home safely and today her loved ones and so many people from the local community and across the country came to complete the journey she started.

“My thoughts and prayers are with them all today.

Death of Zara Aleena
Family, friends and members of the public attended the vigil on Saturday (Beresford Hodge/PA)

“I am clear that women should not have to change their behavior and every woman and girl has the right to be safe and to feel safe – no matter what time of day and where she is. is located.

“We owe it to Zara to do everything possible to end violence against women and girls.”

Speaking to the media on Friday, Ms Naz said her niece was in her own local community, in an area she knew well where she felt safe, when she was attacked.

She said the family were determined to try to ‘change something’ and to get Britain’s political leaders to act ‘immediately to prevent violence’.

She said: “(My niece) was not unaware of the fact that women hurt themselves. It’s not about making the streets safe, it’s about changing mentalities.

Farah Naz, the maternal aunt of murdered law graduate Zara Aleena, during a media interview in east London
Farah Naz, the maternal aunt of murdered law graduate Zara Aleena, during a media interview in east London (Yui Mok/PA)

Weeping, Ms Naz added: ‘We’ll never get through this, but this (the march) will help us.’

The vigil took the form of a silent march that retraced the route Ms Aleena had taken but was never able to complete – “to get her back to her safe place”.

Vigil participants gathered at 1.30pm opposite Cranbrook Rise on Cranbrook Road in Ilford, starting the march at 2.17pm – the morning of June 26, Ms Aleena was attacked.

Her family asked attendees to wear white and stay “silent and dark” as “we walk Zara home in our hearts.”

Ahead of the silent vigil for Ms Aleena, the women shared pictures of their shoes on social media with the hashtag #SafelyHomeInOurShoes.

The Londoner was returning home from a night out when she was dragged, kicked and stomped on, prosecutors said.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Jordan McSweeney appearing via video link from HMP Thameside during a hearing at the Old Bailey, London
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Jordan McSweeney, 29, appearing via video link from HMP Thameside during a hearing at the Old Bailey (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

A post-mortem examination revealed that she had suffered multiple serious injuries.

Jordan McSweeney, 29, of Church Elm Lane, Dagenham, east London, appeared at the Old Bailey on Friday charged with murder, attempted rape and robbery.

He entered no plea and was taken into custody.

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