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Suspect in court accused of murder, attempted rape and robbery of Zara Aleena

Jordan McSweeney appeared at Thames Magistrates Court on Wednesday (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Jordan McSweeney appeared at Thames Magistrates Court on Wednesday (Gareth Fuller/PA)

A 29-year-old man has appeared in court accused of the murder, attempted rape and robbery of Zara Aleena as her family paid moving tribute to the law graduate.

Jordan McSweeney, of Church Elm Lane, Dagenham, east London, is accused of killing the 35-year-old as she walked home from a night-out along Cranbrook Road in Ilford, east London, in the early hours of Sunday.

He appeared briefly at Thames Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, wearing a grey tracksuit and speaking only to confirm his name, date of birth and address.

No plea was indicated.

Zara Aleena, wearing a red top and smiling at the camera.
Zara Aleena, who was killed on her way home in the early hours of Sunday (Family handout/PA)

Earlier, Ms Aleena’s family released a powerful tribute in which they said she was a keen walker and believed women should be safe on the streets.

In a statement issued through police, they said: “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.”

McSweeney is accused of murder as well as robbing Ms Aleena of her mobile phone, keys and handbag, and attempted penetration without consent.

He was remanded in custody and will next appear at the Old Bailey on Friday for a bail hearing.

Police have said that Ms Aleena suffered severe head injuries and no weapons are thought to have been used.

In the wake of her death her family issued a moving statement in which they also expressed sympathy for other bereaved families who have lost loved ones to violence.

They said: “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, 10 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.”

Dozens of flowers, cards, candles and banners have been laid out at the scene where Ms Aleena was fatally injured.

One note said: “I am shocked at what happened. I literally drive past here every day as I live around the corner and I just can’t believe this happened to someone as innocent as you.

“Only god knows what you were going through during this ordeal.”

A card apparently from Ms Aleena’s nephew, said: “Love you always.”

Some words on a balloon read: “To Zara, shine bright like the star you are. I love you always.”

Another said: “You are the only person I’ve ever known to light a room. You had the most beautiful soul who never saw bad in anyone.”