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PA News

Sexual predator jailed for murdering Zara Aleena days after prison release

Jordan McSweeney was caught on CCTV following two other women before he targeted the 35-year-old walking home.

A CAREER CRIMINAL has been jailed for at least 38 years for the “brutal sexually motivated murder” of law graduate Zara Aleena within days of him being released from prison.

Jordan McSweeney was caught on CCTV drunkenly lurching in the street after being ejected from a pub for pestering a female member of staff.

He followed three women and confronted a fourth before he targeted 35-year-old Ms Aleena as she walked home from a night out early on Sunday 26 June.

McSweeney stalked her along Cranbrook Road in Ilford, east London before grabbing her from behind and dragging her into a driveway.

zara-aleena-death Jordan McSweeney, 29, pleaded guilty to the murder of law graduate Zara Aleena Met Police / PA Met Police / PA / PA

Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow KC said: “Despite being only yards from a public street and from residential properties, the defendant attacked Zara Aleena with a savagery that is almost impossible to believe.

“He repeatedly kicked and stamped on her head and body, he tore some of her clothes from her body in order that he could sexually assault her, and then he attacked her again, kicking and stamping on her face and neck, and returning several times to continue the brutal violence.

“Finally, once satisfied that she would no longer be able to report him for what he had done, he walked away, taking her mobile telephone with him which he threw over a garden wall, thus ensuring that neither she nor anyone else who might find her could use the phone to call for help.

“He walked back to the caravan where he was living and the following morning, having hidden the bloodstained clothes and shoes he had been wearing during the attack, was seen laughing and joking with his friends; seemingly without any concern for what he had done or for the fate he had forced upon Zara Aleena.”

The attack lasted nine minutes and resulted in 46 separate injuries.

Afterwards, McSweeney took some of Ms Aleena’s clothes, keys and purse which he threw away with the same “disdain” he had treated his victim, Glasgow said.

Ms Aleena was found with severe head injuries and struggling to breathe.

Emergency services were called at 2.44am but she died in hospital from compression to the neck and blunt force to the head.

embedded270244331 Protesters from Million Women Rise gather outside the Old Bailey in London, ahead of the sentencing of Jordan McSweeney David Parry / PA David Parry / PA / PA

Glasgow told the court:

“At the time she was attacked, Zara Aleena was only minutes from her front door and she had every right to feel safe on the street – streets where she lived and which she knew well – but once she had become a target for this defendant that right was taken from her in a terrifying and ruthless manner, and, quite simply, she stood no chance of survival.”

Police identified McSweeney from a bloody fingerprint at the scene and chilling CCTV footage which was played in court.

Officers traced him to a caravan on a fairground in the nearby Valentines Park where he was arrested the next day.

While in custody, McSweeney was violent towards officers after refusing to answer questions.

The court was told the prolific thief and burglar had been released from prison on licence on 17 June – just days before the murder.

Last month, McSweeney, 29, of Dagenham, Essex, pleaded guilty to Ms Aleena’s murder and sexual assault.

He refused to come up from the cells at the Old Bailey to be sentenced today, saying he did not want to watch footage of what he had done.

In a televised sentencing,  Justice Cheema-Grubb jailed him in his absence for life with a minimum term of 38 years.

Ms Aleena was a talented and spirited woman, the judge said, adding: “The defendant had the advantage of strength and surprise. In everything else, she was better than him.

“She was simply a happy, healthy woman living her life in what most Londoners think of as the best city in the world.”

She added that McSweeney’s decision not to come to court to face justice showed he had “no spine whatsoever”.

Ms Aleena’s aunt Farah Naz said after the sentencing: “We don’t want her last hours, her end, to define her.

“Zara means literally radiance and she was the heart of us. The heart of our family and the heart of her community, the heart of her friends, and that’s how we remember her. That’s what’s been taken, the heart of us.

“I think of her as an ambassador of the end of violence against women and girls, and I think she would be really proud to be that.”

On her niece’s killer, Ms Naz said: “We see him as someone who has stamped his pain and anger onto Zara and destroyed her with that, and destroyed us.

“He had an extreme indifference to her life and to law and to society’s norms. He had no fear of the consequences.”

Shortly after her death, the University of Westminster said Ms Aleena was a law graduate who last year gained a postgraduate diploma in legal practice.

A spokeswoman said: “We are shocked and deeply saddened by the news that our former law school student and graduate Zara Aleena has lost her life in such a tragic way. Our thoughts are with Zara’s family and loved ones at this dreadful time.

“Zara was awarded the LLB with honours in 2011 and the postgraduate diploma in legal practice in 2021. She is remembered clearly and fondly by all who taught her.

embedded267686520 Farah Naz, the maternal aunt of murdered law graduate Zara Aleena Yui Mok / PA Yui Mok / PA / PA

Detective Chief Inspector Dave Whellams said: “He can only be described as a danger to women. His very demeanour, the way he is, the focus that he has and his don’t-care-less attitude.

“He is somebody that we really can’t allow out on the streets. Women will always be a danger in my opinion.”

McSweeney has 28 previous convictions for 69 separate offences including burglary, theft of a vehicle, criminal damage, assaulting police officers and assaulting members of the public while on bail.

The Metropolitan Police said the Probation Service had commenced recall proceedings on 22 June after he missed two appointments.

The force said it was informed on 24 June and attended an address linked to McSweeney the following day to arrest him but he was not there, and was subsequently arrested on suspicion of Ms Aleena’s murder on 27 June.

Ms Aleena, who was training to achieve her dream of becoming a solicitor, had begun working at the Royal Courts of Justice five weeks before her death and was “the happiest she had ever been”, her family said.

Ms Naz described her niece as an “active citizen” who was “assertive, outgoing, articulate and funny”.

She said: “We want to get a message across to say this should not have happened.

“Violence must stop towards women. Zara should not have been killed and this was avoidable.

“Zara’s death has made campaigners out of all of us and we will not stop.”

Press Association