Friend and aunt of Zara Aleena reveal she was always careful when out alone
Zara Aleena (Image by iTV News)
After the tragic murder of 35-year-old ‘aspiring lawyer’ Zara Aleena, a friend and neighbour has come forward to reveal that Aleena was reluctant to take a taxi as she felt safer to walk home on the fateful night.
Louise De’Souza, 60, who knew Aleena since she was kid, said that she did not feel safe getting into a taxi with a stranger and preferred walking around the city instead. De’Souza said, “Unless someone was sharing or she knew the driver, she wouldn’t get in. I said, ‘Don’t walk late at night’. She said she was safer because the street lights were on.”
Aleena was heading towards Gants Hill Tube station when she was attacked near Cranbrook Road in Ilford during the early hours of 26 July. Her death has sparked the debate on women’s safety in the country again after multiple incidents of women being attacked and murdered on the streets have come to the forefront.
Zara’s maternal aunt, Farah Naz, told MyLondon in a recent interview, “If you met Zara today, you would be meeting an amazing, genuine, independent, sassy, strong, funny, kind, hardworking, brave woman but above all else, she always did the right thing.”
She also spoke of her last ever conversation with Aleena before she was murdered, where she cautioned her to be more vigilant and added, “I spoke with her on the day that she was killed. She was not really in the mood to go out but she would never back out of plans. She was fiercely loyal. The last words that I said to her was ‘be careful’.”
“But she was careful. The street that she was walking on was her home. She felt safe because she knew everybody on that street. She was the family’s biggest extrovert. So everybody knows her.”
Naz also emphasised, “What’s happened here is happening all across the country. This is not just about us. It’s about Sabina Nessa, Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman and Ashling Murphy.”
“We want change and we want to our leaders. This is about women not having to risk themselves. We have an entitlement to walk our streets. We have a right to be safe. To not be afraid. Zara was determined – that’s why she wanted to be a lawyer. She was determined to change things and create more equality.”
“It is the mindsets of people like this man that needs to change. People who think that violence is a way of communication, people who like to dominate and use their brute force to control women. They destroy them, and we want things to change.”
Following her death, Aleena’s distraught family spearheaded a vigil during the weekend by walking at 2.17pm in remembrance of her untimely death which occurred at 2.17am.
In connection with the incident, 29-year-old John McSweeney who is a resident of Dagenham, appeared at the Old Bailey as a suspect for murdering, attempted rape and robbery of Aleena.