Zara Aleena murder: Paperwork to recall woman's killer to prison was delayed, inquest told

Delays prevented paperwork triggering the recall of Zara Aleena's murderer to prison being sent sooner - just days before he killed her, an inquest has heard.

Jordan McSweeney fatally attacked the 35-year-old law graduate as she walked home following a night out in Ilford, east London, early on 26 June 2022.

At the Old Bailey in December 2022, McSweeney was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 38 years after admitting Ms Aleena's murder and sexual assault.

He had been released from jail on licence on 17 June, nine days before the murder.

McSweeney then breached the conditions of his licence and his recall was started on 22 June, East London Coroner's Court was told on Tuesday.

The recall report was signed on 24 June 2022 and police were given powers to arrest him at 4.10pm the same day, the court heard. Two days later, McSweeney killed Ms Aleena.

Rajeev Thacker, barrister for her family, put it to Kim Thornden-Edwards, the chief probation officer for England and Wales, that there were delays in sending the paperwork to initiate McSweeney's recall to jail.

Ms Thornden-Edwards replied: "Yes, that's correct."

She also accepted there were delays in allocating McSweeney's case to a probation officer.

Ms Aleena's murder led to fresh calls to end violence against women and girls.

McSweeney was known to police as a serial offender and had 28 previous convictions for 69 offences, including burglary and assault.

At the inquest, Mr Thacker talked about McSweeney's score being medium when it came to risk of serious recidivism (RSR).

RSR is used to assess how likely offenders are to commit a seriously harmful re‐offence within the next two years.

The barrister asked her if it seemed odd to her that after someone has been arrested for murder, they were rated as medium risk.

Ms Thornden-Edwards responded: "Yes it does, yes it does."

She said during earlier evidence that the Probation Service accepted McSweeney should have been considered as high risk from 2021.

The jury was told McSweeney was 29 at the time of the attack and had received his first custodial sentence at the age of 13, with much of his adult years spent in prison or in the community under licence.

In November last year, McSweeney won a Court of Appeal bid to reduce the minimum term of his life sentence.

On Monday, area coroner Nadia Persaud said the purpose of the inquest was to "consider the circumstance by which Zara came by her death, which will include whether any actions or omissions of state bodies contributed to her death".

'Our system failed Zara and us'

Ms Aleena's aunt, Farah Naz, told the inquest jury in Walthamstow that the family was "tortured by thoughts that her death was preventable and that our state system that we entrusted failed our Zara, failed us".

She added that her niece's murder highlighted "the crumbling justice system that is meant to protect all of us, especially women and girls".

A damning report found a catalogue of errors in the Probation Service's handling of McSweeney, which meant he was not treated as a high-risk offender and was "free" to commit this "most heinous crime".

The inquest continues.