Hundreds gather at vigil for Ilford's 'gentle soul' Zara Aleena
- Credit: PA
Hundreds of people have attended a “silent and sombre” vigil in honour of Zara Aleena who was killed as she walked home along Cranbrook Road in Ilford.
In the early hours of last Sunday morning - June 26 - the law graduate was fatally attacked while walking towards Gants Hill.
Yesterday afternoon - Saturday, July 2 - a vigil organised by Zara’s family saw people start to walk at 2.17pm from opposite Cranbrook Rise on Cranbrook Road.
People were asked to wear white and remain “silent and sombre” as “we walk Zara home in our hearts”.
The roads were closed in the area to allow attendees to walk the 10 minute journey from the scene of the attack to her home.
Many of those in attendance at yesterday's vigil wore white clothing to honour Zara, to whom mourners also paid tribute by leaving bouquets of flowers and cards.
The law graduate's family led the crowd as it began tracing the walk she would have taken, with many holding flowers and pictures of Zara and some wearing T-shirt bearing her image.
Yards from the family home Zara’s aunt, Farah Nuz addressed the crowd: “She was on the home stretch. Thank you so much for doing the walk and holding her in your hearts, praying for her, keeping her safe on this journey.
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“At this point now, we ask you to go home and thank you so much for being here today because this is our Zara, this is our issue, this is something that we must all change, it must never happen again. Thank you for being here.”
Farah then invited people to place the flowers they had been carrying together on the ground.
Ahead of the vigil Anjum Mouj, co-chairwoman of London Black Women’s Project, also spoke to the crowd.
She said: “Grandma, mother, aunties, cousins, friends, family, have asked me to thank you from their heart, their heartfelt thanks for you all to be here today, to do this walk with us to take Zara Natasha Aleena home, the steps that she couldn’t take – she could see, it’s in touching distance of her home, it’s in touching distance, she could see her home almost and she couldn’t walk there.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said Zara was “an incredible woman and an inspiration to us all”.
He added: “She rightly believed that every woman should be able to walk home safely and today her loved ones and so many from the local community and across the country came to finish the journey she started.”
Marai Larasi, a member of campaign group Million Women Rise, said: “We’re here to support the family, we’re here to bring her home in spirit, we’re here to honour her life, and we’re here with absolute exhaustion because we’re tired of vigils, we’re tired of crying and we’re tired of having to bury women of all ages and stages in life.”
A friend of Zara's aunt, Ash Vickers, 54, said: “It’s tragic news. She called me on the way from the airport when she heard the news after it happened last Sunday.
“I’m a solicitor and I know that Zara wanted to train as a lawyer, so Farah would often speak to me and let me know how her progress was getting on.
“Tragically, 17-18 years ago my own niece was attacked and also died on the streets of London and also studied law so very tragic, but 17-18 years later, the same thing is happening.”
Jordan McSweeney, 29, of Church Elm Lane, Dagenham, has been charged with murder, as well as attempted rape and robbery.
McSweeney attended Thames Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday - June 29 - where he was denied bail and remanded in custody to attend the Old Bailey on July 27.
McSweeney attended a bail hearing at court on July 1.