Chilling CCTV footage shows man jogging away from the scene just minutes after Zara Aleena, 35, was ‘punched in the back of the head’ and killed by a ‘stranger’ on her way home
This is the moment a man is seen jogging away from the scene just minutes after law graduate Zara Aleena was killed by an apparent stranger close to her family home in east London.
The 35-year-old was punched in the back of the head in a sickening attack on Cranbrook Road, Ilford, in the early hours of Sunday.
Neighbours living on the busy road were woken by her screams, and frantically dialled 999 but she was pronounced dead at the scene.
CCTV footage, filmed at 2.48am, some 30 minutes after the victim was attacked, shows a man walking briskly past a shop on the road, before breaking into a jog.
He was also captured on camera walking past the same shop at 2.05am – five minutes before Miss Aleena herself was seen doing so.
The shopkeeper, who asked not to be named, said police had collected footage from his CCTV camera for their investigation.
He said: ‘Police came to my shop and asked to see my CCTV footage. They showed me the poor young woman walking past my shop. And they showed me the footage of the murder suspect walking past the shop a few minutes earlier.
‘It is terrible what happened to that young woman. I gave the police the footage because I want to do everything I can do to help solve this awful murder.’
Aspiring lawyer Zara Aleena, 35, was murdered in the early hours of Sunday morning in Ilford, East London. A 29-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of her murder
People living along the street say they recorded footage from 2.13am that they have given to police which shows her confronting a man close to a bus stop on Cranbrook Road who was following her.
In the separate footage, Miss Aleena can be seen talking to the man and then walking off quickly. The man was seen standing still for several moments before lighting a cigarette and then continuing to follow her. He wearing white trainers, light blue jeans and a distinctive two-tone jacket.
A man living in Cranbrook Road who captured the separate footage told MailOnline: ‘From the footage you can see a woman walking down the road and then a man follow around 10-feet behind her. She speeds up and he does the same and they both head up towards Gants Hill. They’d been walking from Ilford up Cranbrook Road.
‘The police have seen the footage and taken it away. My daughter said she heard a woman screaming at about 2am. There were a couple of screams but that was it.
‘We live on a fairly busy road and there’s often people shouting at all times of day. The police who came to collect the footage told us that the man had started following the woman by the entrance to Valentines Park.’
Miss Aleena was killed at 2.20am, less than ten minutes after she confronted the man, CCTV footage of the attack has confirmed.
Just four minutes earlier a marked police car drove past as Miss Aleena walked along the pavement with her attacker following a few yards behind her.
The Met Police vehicle did not have its emergency lights or siren on, suggesting it was not responding to an emergency call, when it passed Miss Aleena at 2.16am.
A 29-year-old man was arrested on Monday on suspicion of her murder.
It comes as the sister of Sabina Nessa – who died in similar circumstances – today described her grief after the death of Miss Aleena – the 16th woman in London and the 52nd woman in the UK to be murdered by a man in 2022.
Jebina Nessa, whose sister was murdered by a stranger as she walked to the pub in Kidbrooke, south-east London last year, joined the calls for more to be done to end male violence against women.
She said today: ‘Words cannot describe how I felt reading yet another murder, similar to what happened to my beautiful sister Sabina Nessa… My heart goes out to her family. There are no words to describe the loss in such a way.’
Zara’s close friend Lisa Hodgson has revealed that they were meant to be together over the weekend – but they had rearranged to meet next weekend. Zara had texted on Friday to say: ‘Miss your beautiful face this weekend xx can’t wait to see you next weekend xxx’.
Lisa said today: ‘I am completely broken. My bestest friend (for the past 17 years) Zara Aleena was murdered by a complete stranger. I am shocked. I am angry. I feel sick to my stomach . We spent most weekends together. We were meant to be together this weekend but I had to cancel and arranged to meet next weekend. I wish I had met her this weekend. She got f***ing murdered walking home’.
In a poignant Facebook post she described her grief at not seeing her again or hearing her voice, adding: ‘To the man that murdered Zara may he get tortured in prison. I want to look him in the eye and ask why???!!!! Justice for Zara Aleena. When will our streets be safe? Something needs to be done! Something must be done. Now you rest in peace beautiful angel’.
Police were handed CCTV of the attack by a resident who lived across the street. He told The Times: ‘The guy came from the back, he was following her. It happened on the main road. He punched her a few times.’ Investigators believe the perpetrator did not use any weapons, just his fists.
Flowers and cards have been left at the scene today. One tribute said: ‘Best friend I could ever have asked for ..’ xxxx. I am going to miss everything about you, your smile, the way you bite your bottom lip when you were thinking, our nights out… eating burgers on a step, laughing about anything and everything.’ Another wrote: ‘I love you to the moon and back’.
This is the last exchange Zara’s closest friend had with her on Friday. On Sunday morning she was murdered
Zara’s close friend Lisa Hodgson (pictured together) has revealed that they were meant to be together over the weekend – but they had rearranged to meet next weekend
The road where Zara was found with horrific injuries was just a short distance from Gants Hill Station
Zara’s death is the latest murder of a woman walking alone in London after the murders of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard
The Met shut down the area and put up forensic tents where she was murdered on Cranbrook Road, Ilford (pictured) in the early hours of Sunday
The Met Police have launched a murder probe into the death of the victim who was found with serious head injuries in Redbridge, Ilford this morning. Pictured: The cordon and forensics at the scene
The unprovoked attack on Miss Aleena is already being compared to the murders of teacher Sabina Nessa, 28, and marketing manager Sarah Everard, 33, who were both attacked while out alone in London. Both their killers were opportunistic and chose them at random.
Miss Aleena’s friend Nadia, 42, a school teacher, said: ‘She just decided to walk home because it was close by.. nothing like that has ever happened here.
‘She wanted to borrow some heels and some mascara from me that night, but I couldn’t answer my phone as I was busy. She was a gentle soul, she wouldn’t hurt a fly. She just passed her law degree and was working in central London. She wanted to become a lawyer so she could provide for herself and her family’.
Detectives were last night questioning a 29-year-old man arrested on suspicion of murdering the University of Westminster graduate.
Miss Aleena’s cousin described her as a ‘bubbly, high-empathy person’ and said the family were devastated.
Friends recalled her excitement as she asked to borrow high heels and mascara for a night out that ended in tragedy.
Miss Aleena had been working at the Royal Courts of Justice as an administration officer while she sought a trainee solicitor role that would allow her to embark on a legal career, said her cousin, who asked not to be named.
‘She was a lovely person,’ he added. ‘It’s such a shock for the family. She wanted to become a lawyer, to make a success of herself so she could support the family.
‘She was always bubbly, brought life to the room, a warm, high-empathy person. She looked after her mum and her gran and was a very family-oriented person.’
Scotland Yard said Miss Aleena was found badly beaten at about 2.44am not far from her home in Ilford, north-east London. Paramedics took her to hospital but she died of her injuries shortly afterwards.
People living nearby said there was a helicopter hovering over the area from 3am as police hunted for Miss Aleena’s killer.
Mustafa Meric, 56, said his son’s friend lived opposite and his CCTV had captured footage – which he had passed to the police – of the attack.
‘It is not the safest of areas,’ he added. ‘I fear for my wife and kids. I’ve told them to stop [going out late] for now.’
Chief Superintendent Stuart Bell, of Scotland Yard, said ‘it is now believed that she was the victim of an opportunist stranger attack’ and there was no evidence that weapons had been used.
‘Tackling violence against women and girls is an absolute priority for the Met. Every day our officers are working with partners across the capital to improve safety in our public spaces,’ he added.
‘Women should not have to change their behaviour and should be able to go about their business, feeling safe, any time of day or night. It’s our job to ensure that happens – but officers cannot be in all places at all times. I would urge our community, especially women, to report any suspicious or unwanted behaviour and seek help if you feel threatened.’
Miss Aleena’s LinkedIn page says she graduated with a law degree from the University of Westminster in October last year.
She had been working at the Royal Courts of Justice since May but was seeking a paralegal or trainee solicitor position.
The Labour MP for Ilford South, Sam Tarry, said: ‘It looks like, on the face of it, a random attack. This is something out of the ordinary. The Met and local authority are moving heaven and earth to ensure people’s safety and put the perpetrator behind bars.
‘We will do everything to remember this woman who lost her life in the most horrendous way.’
Police continue to work in Cranbrook Road, Redbridge, after Zara Aleena was murdered on Sunday morning
She was attacked while walking along Cranbrook Road in the direction of Gants Hill Station and the high street. Pictured: Police talk to a driver as they close the road
He added: ‘We want our community to be free of fear and go about their daily business.
‘People do need to be reassured – there will be a flood of police on the streets. I don’t think people should be bowed or cowed into fear, but of course people are going to be scared.
‘I would say to people, check your cameras, your dashcams, any small clue could help.’
Rafia Ahmed, who lives nearby, said she and her friends will now only walk in groups at night.
‘Because it’s literally on our doorstep it scares you. As a female you think twice about going out by yourself’, she told the BBC.
Shopkeeper Kuldip Singh said he was concerned by the level of violence in the area.
He said: ‘This one was quite brutal. It was a young lady but people don’t really feel safe in this location as much as they used to.
‘If I was an elderly person or a female, especially in the winter months, walking through this road you could be at risk.’
Subhash, 60, who lives just off Cranbrook Road, said he ‘worries’ for other local women. He said: ‘It’s not just my daughter, it’s other daughters, other girls, other women in the area. It’s quite a serious matter, how safe are you in your own area.’