Zara Aleena murder accused dragged her off street before stamping on her, court hears

The man accused of murdering Zara Aleena dragged her onto a driveway before stamping and kicking her, a court heard today.

Jordan McSweeney, 29, allegedly beat the 35-year-old to death as she walked home from a night out in Ilford, east London, in the early hours of Sunday.

The defendant, who is also accused of robbing the law graduate of her mobile phone, keys and handbag, and attempted penetration without consent, appeared at the Old Bailey this morning.

He was remanded in custody after appearing via video link from HMP Thameside wearing a green jumper.

Ms Aleena was found bleeding and struggling to breathe with serious head injuries on Cranbrook Road, the court was told.

She was dragged on to the driveway before being kicked and stamped on, prosecutors allege.

A post-mortem examination found she had suffered multiple serious injuries.

McSweeney, of Dagenham, east London, was seen covering his face with his hands ahead of the hearing before sitting back in his chair.

He later pulled his jumper up over his face and fiddled with the microphone, speaking only to confirm his name and date of birth.

The court appearance comes as hundreds of people are expected to turn out for a silent vigil for Ms Aleena on Saturday afternoon, to “walk her home”.

Her maternal aunt, Farah Naz, said her “independent” and “big-hearted” niece “was the joy, the light of our home”, and spoke of the family’s determination to “change something” in honour of the “extrovert”.

Ms Naz told reporters: “I don’t think there is going to be closure, this is just the beginning of the conversation we need to have.

“I want to reach out and do something important and act, because that’s what Zara was about – we have got to change something. I want to speak to the leaders of this country, I want to talk about the setting up of projects right now to prevent violence.”

Ms Naz said her niece – known to family members as Zash or Zasherooni – was conscious of the dangers women faced, particularly following the recent murders in London of Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman, Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, but felt “safe” walking in her local community where she was “known to everybody”.

“Zara was not a woman who was unaware that there were dangers in the world,” Ms Naz said. “She did not imagine what happened to those women would happen to her.

“She didn’t know she was going to be on this list because in her mind she took those precautions.”

She added: “This is about a young woman who lost everything, and about a society who lost someone who was giving, someone who was good.

“That she spent the last few minutes of her life looking at something so horrible torments us. She was not ignorant to the fact that women get hurt. This isn’t about making the streets safe, it’s about changing the mindset.”

McSweeney will next appear at the Old Bailey on September 30 for a plea hearing.