Friends pay tribute to woman killed by strangeron June 28, 2022 at 8:19 am

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Zara Aleena, who was killed in east London on Sunday, “lit up the whole room”.

Zara AleenaImage source, Met Police

A woman killed in a suspected stranger attack in the early hours of Sunday was a “kind soul” friends have said.

Zara Aleena, 35, was assaulted walking along Cranbrook Road, towards Gants Hill station in Ilford, east London. She died later in hospital.

A 29-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder, in what police say was an “opportunist stranger attack”.

Her friend Sophie said: “She was the nicest person you could ever meet, always positive.”

“She lit up the whole room,” she added. “She could talk to anyone for hours.”


Paramedics were at the scene of the assault at about 02:45 BST on Sunday after Ms Aleena, who lived locally, was found by members of the public.

In a statement, Ch Supt Stuart Bell said: “It is now believed that she was the victim of an opportunist stranger attack. Her family are aware of this and they will continue to be updated.”

He added there was no evidence of any weapons being used in the beating, which left Ms Aleena with fatal head injuries.

A post-mortem examination revealed she had “multiple serious injuries”.

One of the victim’s friends has told the BBC that she refused the offer of a taxi home, preferring to walk the two-mile journey instead. Ms Aleena was known as a fast walker and loved walking.


Ch Supt Bell said a full forensic examination of the scene and surrounding area had taken place, as had house-to-house inquiries as officers worked “at pace” to establish what had happened.

Other friends of Ms Aleena said she was “so soft and gentle, she never had a bad word to say about anyone”.

Karina – who did not provide her surname – and Sherit Nair described her as someone who cared and looked after all her friends and was a “lifeline for her mother and grandmother” as she did all of their shopping and arranged their medication.

The friends, who had known Ms Aleena for years, said she graduated in October after extensive studying and had only been working at the Royal Courts of Justice for a few weeks.

Crime scene aerial shot

Image source, Amir Ahmed

They believe she was heading home from a night out with friends when she was attacked, adding that she walked everywhere, preferring not to drive.

Rafia Ahmed, who lives nearby, said she and her friends were worried about their safety and whether they should only go out in groups.

“Because it’s literally on our doorstep it scares you. As a female you think twice about going out by yourself.”

A third of London’s 45 homicide victims in 2022 have been women, according to data collected by the Met Police, British Transport Police and City of London Police.

By the same time last year, there had been 58 London homicide victims, 12 (21%) of whom were female, according to the data.


A significant police presence is expected to remain in the area in the coming days.

Ch Supt Bell said he understood Ms Aleena’s death was an “incredibly distressing incident”.

“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 and it is our job to ensure that happens.

“Officers cannot be in all places at all times. We urge the community, especially women, to report any suspicious or unwanted behaviour or to seek help if you feel threatened.”

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