LONDON — Sabina Nessa, a popular and admired schoolteacher living in south-east London, was planning to meet a friend at a local pub when she left her house and walked through a park one evening last September.
But on what should have been a five-minute run, the 28-year-old was ambushed. Koci Selamaj, a garage worker, delivered dozens of blows to the head with a metal road sign before strangling Ms Nessa in a premeditated attack of “really evil violence”, prosecutors said.
A judge was due to sentence Mr Selamaj, a 36-year-old Albanian, on Thursday after finding in February that he was guilty of her murder – a crime that carries a mandatory life sentence in England.
The attack and murder of Ms Nessa in a public park in London, part of which was captured in surveillance footage, has intensified outrage over what women in particular have seen as a failure by authorities to tackle against gender-based violence in Britain.
The anger over Ms Nessa’s murder has built on the outrage that emerged after Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive in London, was kidnapped and murdered by London police officer Wayne Couzens, while that she was walking in a public space.
But coverage of the two cases also opened up a broader conversation about whether crimes against women of color have garnered the same attention as those against white women.
Her family and other women’s rights advocates criticized the media for not giving Ms Nessa, who is British of Bangladeshi origin, the same treatment as Ms Everard.
Ms Nessa’s family called Mr Selamaj’s admission of guilt a step towards securing justice for his murder, but said it would ultimately not end their suffering.
“It has been such a horrible, emotional and heartbreaking time for us,” her sister, Jebina Yasmin Islam, said Wednesday, asking people to pray for her family.
Ms Nessa’s death has shaken the south-east London community in which she was a beloved figure with a passion for nature, produce growing and cooking. Staff at Rushey Green Primary School in Catford, south-east London, raise money to build a garden for Ms Nessa. They described her as talented, dedicated and kind.
“She had so much life ahead of her and so much more to give,” school principal Lisa Williams said in a statement after her death.
Prosecutors said Mr Selamaj did not reveal his motives and showed “little remorse”, but they suspect the murder was sexually motivated.
Mr Selamaj had left the town of Eastbourne in Sussex, around 50 miles south of London, on September 17 with the intention of carrying out an attack and waited around Cator Park.
He saw Ms Nessa around 8.30pm and punched her more than 30 times, before taking her to another area of the park and strangling her to death. His body was found the following day.
Women’s rights groups have called on the government not only to adopt tougher penalties for such crimes, but also to strengthen policing and focus on prevention programs to educate men and women. boys.
The government said last month it would run a massive education campaign to tackle gender-based violence and harassment after receiving 180,000 responses to a public request for personal experiences and opinions. Law enforcement authorities said they would now take violence against women as seriously as terrorism, serious organized crime and child sexual abuse.
It was a welcome update after years of lobbying, the Coalition to End Violence Against Women said, adding that the onus was often wrongly placed on women to keep them safe.
In 2021, at least 141 British women were killed by men, or in attacks where a man was the prime suspect, according to Counting Dead Women, a project dedicated to tracking such killings.