Ilford murder: Police name woman killed in east London street by ‘stranger’

·6 min read
Ilford murder: Police name woman killed in east London street by ‘stranger’

Police have named a young woman who died after what police believe was an attack by stranger in a street in east London.

Scotland Yard said Zara Aleena, 35, suffered serious head injuries in “a horrific assault” as she walked in the direction of Gants Hill Station, Ilford early on Sunday.

Officers were called to the scene by paramedics who found her at 2.44am.

Zara Aleena
Zara Aleena

Ms Aleena - who was first found by members of the public in Cranbrook Road - later died in hospital.

Chief Superintendent Stuart Bell, the senior officer responsible for policing in the area, said on Monday: “Zara, who lived locally, was walking along Cranbrook Road in the direction of Gants Hill Station when she was assaulted.

“It is now believed that she was the victim of an attack by a stranger.

“Her family are aware of this and as the investigation progresses they will continue to be updated and supported.

“A special post mortem has been completed. Zara suffered multiple serious injuries that contributed to her death.

“There is no evidence at this time that weapons were used during the attack.”

“We are keeping Zara’s family up to date with our progress and my heartfelt condolences are with them at this terrible time,” he added.

“They are being supported by specialist officers – but I cannot imagine the pain they must be feeling.”

Police said on Monday afternoon that a 29-year-old man had been arrested at an address in Ilford on suspicion of murder and was in custody.

Ms Aleena has yet to be formally identified.

Residents spoke of their “sheer horror” as forensic teams scoured Cranbrook Road for clues.

Detectives carried out door to door inquiries and collecting CCTV with the crime scene behind a police cordon.

Ms Aleena is the 16th woman killed in an act of violence in London so far in 2022 – a third of the 50 homicides being investigated by the Met, British Transport and City of London forces.

A police cordon in Cranbrook Road, Ilford, where a murder investigation is under way following the death of a 36-year-old woman (PA) (PA Wire)
A police cordon in Cranbrook Road, Ilford, where a murder investigation is under way following the death of a 36-year-old woman (PA) (PA Wire)

The ratio is higher than the same time last year, when 13 out of 60 victims were female.

One man, whose house is close to the scene, said: “My neighbour heard a woman screaming. It was very late. The next thing we knew there was a helicopter and police dog barking. When we discovered what happened it was sheer horror.”

Another man said the incident happened directly outside his house.

He said: “My wife heard a man shouting. Then a little later there were police and flashing lights everywhere. We thought it was some drunk. Now I feel guilty I could have helped. If only I had gone out. We had no idea that something so horrible has happened outside our home.”

A resident who lives near the crime scene said he had reported to the police an incident of a man with “wild eyes” harassing a woman nearby in recent weeks.

He told the Standard: “I was sitting having a drink and this guy started harassing a woman I didn’t know. The guy had wild eyes and was very scared. I have reported it to the police. It may be something and nothing but it may be important. This guy didn’t look right.”

A mother of four girls added: “I’m so worried. I’ve told my daughters to be so careful. The attack took place on a busy road. The killer was taking a big risk. It’s horrifying.”

Another resident said: “To think that a killer is on the loose and women are being warned to be careful is terrifying for us. I won’t go out after dark now.”

A neighbour continued: “I live opposite and saw flashing lights, then a woman was being treated by paramedics. They put her on a stretcher and took her to hospital. We are all reeling from what’s happened on our doorstep.”

One local said: “We are in total disbelief.”

Chief Superintendent Bell, who leads the Met’s East Area basic command, said earlier: “The woman had been subjected to a horrific assault and sadly passed away as a result of her injuries.

“Teams of dedicated officers are working at pace to establish what happened and identify the person responsible. This includes full forensic examination of the scene and the surrounding area, house to house inquiries and a focus on identifying all available CCTV.

“Local people will see a significant police presence in the area today and in the coming days.

“I understand that for women, particularly locally, this is an incredibly distressing incident, and I urge you to be alert but not alarmed.”

He added: “It is crucial that anyone with information comes forward to police, or calls Crimestoppers anonymously in order to help catch whoever is responsible for this truly shocking act of violence.

“Specifically, we are appealing for anyone who was in the Cranbrook Road area of Ilford between 02:00hrs and 03:00hrs on Sunday morning to get in touch, including anyone who drove through the area and may have dashcam footage.

“We also want to hear from anyone who saw anything suspicious in the wider Ilford area overnight.

He added:“My genuine thanks go to everyone in the community for their patience and resilience. Our neighbourhood officers will be making themselves available over the coming days to speak to the community and people affected locally.

“Every resource is being dedicated to locating whoever is responsible and with every hour, the investigation is gathering pace.

“Tackling violence against women and girls is an absolute priority for the Met. Every day our officers are working with partners across the capital to improve safety in our public spaces.

“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. It’s our job to ensure that happens – but officers cannot be in all places at all times.

“I would urge our community, especially women, to report any suspicious or unwanted behaviour and seek help if you feel threatened.

“These appalling crimes have no place in our society. We are determined to bring perpetrators to justice, while improving safety for everyone in London.

“Everyone should be able to their lives free of the fear of violence.”

A father living near the scene said he “worries” for other local women although this was the first serious incident that he remembered happening in the area in 15 years.

Subhash, 60, who lives just off Cranbrook Road, said: “It worries me a little bit that something like that is happening on my doorstep.”

“It’s not just my daughter, it’s other daughters, other girls, other women in the area.

“It’s quite a serious matter, how safe are you in your own area?”

Cllr Jas Athwal, Leader of Redbridge Council, said:“I know I speak for all of us in Redbridge when I say my heart breaks for the woman who has died and for her family and loved ones. I cannot begin to imagine their terrible pain and unbearable loss.

“This unspeakable crime has shocked our local community, and I understand that women, in particular, will be deeply affected.

“No words can do justice at this tragic loss to her family and loved ones, and words only go so far in soothing the pain and worry that our communities are feeling at the moment.”

Meanwhile, police have named a 31-year-old man found stabbed to death in west London.

Karamjeet Singh Reel, from Hounslow, was found with stab wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene in Staines Road.

Anyone with information should call the major incident room on 0208 345 3715 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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