Sexual predator pleads guilty to murdering law graduate Zara Aleena as she walked home

UK

A sexual predator has pleaded guilty to murdering law graduate Zara Aleena just days after being released from prison.

Jordan McSweeney appeared at the Old Bailey on Friday where he admitted murdering Ms Aleena, who was brutally kicked and stamped on, then left for dead, in the early hours of 26 June this year.

The 29-year-old defendant, who had targeted more than one woman before he preyed on Ms Aleena, also pleaded guilty to sexual assault.

Ms Aleena was walking home in Ilford, east London, after spending the evening with friends when she was attacked by McSweeney.

Prosecutors said the 35-year-old woman “stood no chance” as the killer dragged her into a driveway before kicking and stamping on her.

McSweeney sexually assaulted the law graduate and made off with her mobile phone, keys and handbag, the court heard.

Emergency services were called at 2.44am after Ms Aleena was found with severe head injuries, partially naked and struggling to breathe on Cranbrook Road in Ilford.

Paramedics took the victim to the Royal London Hospital, where she later died from her injuries.

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

Ms Aleena was only minutes from home when she was murdered, in what police described as an “opportunist stranger attack”.

A vigil was held for Zara Aleena in Ilford following her death
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A vigil was held for Zara Aleena in Ilford following her death

Blood-stained clothes

CCTV from the night of the killing showed McSweeney following several women before fixating on Ms Aleena.

He was also captured on CCTV returning to his caravan in Dagenham, Essex, after the killing, where police recovered Ms Aleena’s bloodstained clothes.

More bloodstains were found on a wall in Cranbrook Road with the defendant’s fingerprint identified on them.

McSweeney had been released from prison on licence just nine days before the murder.

The court heard he was a prolific offender who had previously been jailed for criminal damage, racially aggravated harassment and unauthorised possession of a knife in prison.

He had 28 convictions for 69 separate offences including burglary, theft of a vehicle, criminal damage, assaulting police officers and assaulting members of the public while on bail.

Flowers are left after a vigil for Zara Aleena
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Flowers left after a vigil for Zara Aleena

‘Substantial risk’ to public

After his arrest following Ms Aleena’s death, McSweeney refused to answer questions but told officers he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

While in custody, he was also said to have threatened police officers.

Having been charged with murder, he was remanded into custody after a judge found he was a “substantial risk” to the public, especially lone women.

Ms Aleena was an aspiring lawyer and had just started a new job at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Her family described her as a “carefree spirit, with the most caring heart” in a tribute following her death.

“She walked everywhere,” the family said. “She put her party shoes in a bag and donned her trainers.

“Zara believed that a woman should be able to walk home.”

Zara Aleena, 36, was found with 'serious head injuries'. Pic: Met Police
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Ms Aleena had ‘the most caring heart’, her family said. Pic: Met Police

Ms Aleena’s murder led to more calls to end violence against women and girls.

Speaking outside court, Detective Chief Inspector David Whellams said Ms Aleena “had every right to feel safe” but “instead she was a victim of shocking violence”.

“We are working tirelessly alongside communities and our partners to make sure women can feel safer, and crucially safer in our city,” the senior Metropolitan Police officer said.

He described McSweeney – who will be sentenced on 14 December – as a “very dangerous individual”.

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‘She had every right to feel safe’, Met Police says

After the hearing, senior Crown prosecutor Olcay Sapanoglu said it was “clear that McSweeney was intent that night on finding a woman to attack”.

“He sexually assaulted her, then brutally stamped on her several times before appearing to walk away,” the prosecutor said.

“Moments later he returned, only to stamp on her several times more and then, finally, leaving her for dead.

“McSweeney did not display a shred of humanity towards Zara.

“Indeed, having completed his initial assault, he returned to inflict further injuries, leading to her death. At no stage during his police interviews did he express any sorrow for his actions.”

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