Zara Aleena was ‘on the home stretch’ when she was killed on her way home from a night out, her aunt told hundreds at a vigil for the 35-year-old law graduate .
Ms Aleena was just minutes from her front door when she was attacked as she walked along Cranbrook Road in Ilford, east London, on June 26.
There was an outpouring of love and support at the vigil, which was hosted by Ms Aleena’s family on Saturday.
Many of those in Cranbrook Road wore white clothes, while mourners left dozens of bouquets of flowers and cards in tribute to Ms Aleena.
Roads were closed in the area to allow crowds to walk the 10-minute journey from the scene of the attack to their homes.
Members of Ms Aleena’s family led the crowd as she began to retrace the path she would have taken to return home, with many holding flowers and pictures of Ms Aleena and wearing t-shirts featuring her likeness .
Ms Aleena’s aunt, Farah Naz, stopped a few yards from the family home and turned towards the crowd.
She said: “She was on the home stretch. Thank you so much for doing the walk and keeping her in your hearts, praying for her, keeping her safe on this journey.
“At this point now we are asking you to go home and thank you very much for being here today because this is our Zara, this is our problem, this is something we all need to change, this does not must never happen again. Thanks to be here.”
She then invited those present to lay the flowers they were carrying together on the ground.
Marai Larasi, a member of campaign group Million Women Rise, said: “We are here to support the family, we are here to bring her home in spirit, we are here to honor her life and we are here with utter exhaustion. because we are tired of wakes, we are tired of crying, and we are tired of having to bury women of all ages and stages of life.
A friend of Ms Aleena’s aunt, Ash Vickers, 54, said: ‘This is tragic news. She called me on the way to the airport when she heard the news after it happened last Sunday.
“I’m a lawyer and I know that Zara wanted to train as a lawyer, so Farah spoke to me often and let me know how she was progressing.
“Tragically, 17-18 years ago my own niece was attacked and also died on the streets of London and also studied law very tragically, but 17-18 years later the same thing happens .”
Sharman Islam Siraj, 38, from Ilford, said: “My mum lives in the area. We are from the area. It’s our home. It’s our community.
“He was someone we used to see walking past our house all the time. She was in the same school as my sister, you know. She was just a local girl, and I feel like if it could happen to her, it could happen to anyone.
“It’s shocking that this could happen to him. It’s shocking that it happened here. So I’m here to support the family. I’m here to show love, support, solidarity.
Anjum Mouj, co-chair of the London Black Women’s Project and who liaised with Ms Allena’s family, addressed the crowd ahead of the vigil.
She said: “Grandmother, mother, aunts, cousins, friends, family, have asked me to thank you from their hearts, their sincere thanks for all of you being here today, to take this walk with us for bring Zara Natasha Aleena home, the steps she couldn’t take – she could see, it’s a touching distance from her house, it’s a touching distance, she could almost see her house and she couldn’t couldn’t walk there.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Ms Aleena 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 people from the local community and across the country came to complete the journey that she had started.”
The vigil took the form of a silent march that retraced the route Ms Aleena had taken but was never able to complete – “to get her back to her safe place”.
Participants gathered at 1.30pm opposite Cranbrook Rise in Cranbrook Road, Ilford, starting the march at 2.17pm – the morning time Ms Aleena was attacked.
Her family asked attendees to wear white and stay “silent and dark” as “we walk Zara home in our hearts.”
Ms Aleena was returning home from a night out when she was dragged, kicked and stomped on, prosecutors said.
A post-mortem examination revealed that she had suffered multiple serious injuries.
Jordan McSweeney, 29, of Church Elm Lane, Dagenham, east London, appeared at the Old Bailey on Friday charged with murder, attempted rape and robbery.
He entered no plea and was taken into custody.