Zara Aleena: Heartbreaking message from aspiring lawyer sent hours before Ilford killing

·4 min read
Zara Aleena: Heartbreaking message from aspiring lawyer sent hours before Ilford killing

The best friend of an aspiring lawyer who died after she was brutally attacked by a stranger said she has been left “sick to her stomach” as she posted heartbreaking screenshots of their final WhatsApp exchange.

Flowers and candles were left at the spot where Zara Aleena, 35, was ambushed on Cranbrook Road as police continue to question a man, 29, arrested on suspicion of murder.

Scotland Yard said Ms Aleena, who worked at the Royal Courts of Justice, suffered serious head injuries as she walked in the direction of Gants Hill Station, Ilford early on Sunday.

Her friend Lisa said she was “completely broken” as she posted screenshots of the pair’s final text exchange on Facebook.

Ms Aleena’s friend Lisa has posted screenshots of their last WhatsApp exchange (Facebook)
Ms Aleena’s friend Lisa has posted screenshots of their last WhatsApp exchange (Facebook)

She said she felt “sick to her stomach” following the tragic death and “will never get over this, ever”.

“I am completely broken,” she wrote.

“My best friend - for the past 17 years - Zara Aleena was murdered last night by a complete stranger.

“I am shocked, I am angry, I feel sick to my stomach.

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

Messages on the road, on Tuesday, said: “I love you to the moon and back”.

Another tribute said: “Best friend I could ever have asked for ..” xxxx

“I am going to miss everything about you, your smile, the way you bite your bottom lip when you were thinking, our nights out… eating burgers on a step, laughing about anything and everything.”

 (John Dunne/Evening Standard)
(John Dunne/Evening Standard)

Another message said: “Beautiful Zara. Such a sweet soul who deserved so much more from life. You could talk for England x.

A third said: “You deserved so much more and I am sorry I could not protect you like I did when silly girls started trouble. You will always be my Zara. Love you beautiful.”

"We spent most weekends together. We were meant to be together this weekend but I had to cancel and arranged to meet next weekend.

"Our last message was on Friday. I wish I had met her this weekend. She got f***ing murdered walking home!

"I will never see her again. I will never hear her voice again.

"We always spoke everyday. I will never get over this ever.

"When will our streets be safe? Something needs to be done!

"Now you rest in peace beautiful angel!"

In a screenshot of their last text exchange, Ms Aleena says: “Miss your beautiful face this weekend. Can’t wait to see you next weekend.”

According to her LinkedIn profile, Ms Aleena studied law at the University of Westminster and had been working at the Royal Courts of Justice as an administrative officer since May.

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.

Zara Aleena died after being a “victim of an attack by a stranger”, the Metropolitan Police has said (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Zara Aleena died after being a “victim of an attack by a stranger”, the Metropolitan Police has said (Metropolitan Police/PA)

“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 on suspicion of murder and was in custody.

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

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.

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.”

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

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