Zara Aleena: Woman killed while walking home in Ilford was ‘fierce’ and ‘beloved’, family say

“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.”

A woman killed in a “savage, sickening” attack was “fierce, caring and beloved”, her family have said.

Zara Aleena, a 35-year-old trainee solicitor from Ilford, was beaten to death while walking home in the early hours of Sunday, June 26,on Cranbrook Road, Ilford, Redbridge.

Jordan McSweeney, 29, of no fixed abode, has been charged with her murder, attempted rape and robbery.

He will appear at Thames Magistrates’ Court today (Wednesday, June 29).

Zara Aleena, 35, who was beaten to death in Cranbrook Road, Ilford. Credit: Met Police

Now Ms Aleena’s family have paid tribute to their “beloved human, child, niece, cousin, granddaughter, friend to all”, and called her “pure of heart” and “a joy to all of us”.

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In a statement, shared by the Met Police, Zara’s family said: “She was our love in human form.

“She was fierce: she didn’t just survive, she thrived.

“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… Her life has been stolen from us. She has been stolen from us all.”

Cranbrook Road, Ilford, where Zara Aleena was attacked and killed by a stranger.

Her family told of their “irreparable” and “insurmountable” loss, adding: “These last few days have been shocking and unimaginable.

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“In a savage, sickening, act she was murdered by a stranger.

“We all know women should be safe on our streets. She was in the heart of her community, ten minutes from home.

“We all need to be talking about this tragedy.”

A crime scene is still up in Ilford where 36-year-old Zara Aleena was attacked and killed.

And the family expressed their “deepest sympathy and love” to the families of other murdered women.

They said: “She’s not the only woman who has lost her life like this.

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“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.

“Rest in power, Zara Natasha Aleena.”

Read their full statement below.

Tributes to Zara Aleena in Cranbrook Road, Ilford. Credit: Josh Mellor/BBC LDRS

Tribute from the family of Zara Aleena:

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“Zara, 35, a beloved human, child, niece, cousin, granddaughter, friend to all, she was a joy to all of us.

“She was a carer for her mother, and her grandmother. Caring for others came so naturally to her.

“Zara was friendly, she was everybody’s friend. She was everybody’s daughter, everybody’s niece, everybody’s sister, everybody’s cousin. She was pure of heart.

“She was a joy to all of us, her sparkling eyes and the curly, jet-black hair.  Her glorious laughter and her sweet, smiling voice. Her tiny frame embodied a passionate spirit and indomitable energy.

“Zara was brought up by the whole of our family. She was our love in human form.

“At the age of 5 she said she was going to be a lawyer.

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“Shrieking with joy when she spotted the birds as a child - she would giggle and make us laugh.

“She was always the bigger person in any situation. She was authentic and refused to try and impress anyone but she impressed us.

“She was the rock of our family. Zara was stoic and held it all together and never complained.

“She glued our community together. ‘Nobody worked harder than Zara’, is what we heard from all who knew her.

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

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“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.

“Zara was happy and at a point in her life that she had worked hard for, she had completed her Legal Practice Course so that she could practise as a solicitor.

“She only recently started working for the Crown Prosecution Service, to complete her 2-year work placement in order to become a fully qualified solicitor.

“She was fierce: she didn’t just survive, she thrived.

“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.

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“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.

“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.

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“Our loss is irreparable and the void feels insurmountable but the warmth and kindness that our community has shown is testament to the power of Zara’s spirit.

“Her life has been stolen from us. She has been stolen from us all.

“REST IN POWER ZARA NATASHA ALEENA.”