Zara Aleena's family 'tortured' by her death, inquest hears

Zara Aleena's family have said they are "tortured" with the thought that her death "was preventable".

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

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

He won a Court of Appeal bid to reduce the minimum term of his life sentence in November 2023.

Farah Naz, Ms Aleena's aunt, told the inquest at East London Coroner's Court in Walthamstow on Monday that her niece's murder highlighted "the crumbling justice system that is meant to protect all of us, especially women and girls".

"Since her death we have been campaigning so that our daughters, sisters, friends can be safe and protected as Zara never was. This is Zara's legacy," Ms Naz said.

She became emotional as she told the jury of her niece's "sparkling eyes and curly jet black hair" and "glorious laughter".

Ms Naz said Ms Aleena was a carer for her mother and grandmother, "the rock of our family" and it was the "proudest moment for all of us" when she was offered a job as a legal assistant at the Royal Courts of Justice.

She described her niece as "a carefree spirit with the most caring heart" and said she had worked to help resettle refugees in the UK.

Ms Naz said: "2022 was to be her year to live her wildest dreams. She wanted to buy her own home, find Mr Right and to have children. The future looked bright."

"One of the things she used to confidently say is 'I know I'm a good person'," she said.

"If she were able to speak here today she would say 'I didn't do anything wrong'."

Ms Aleena "wasn't just surviving, she was thriving", Ms Naz said, adding: "Zara walked everywhere and one night she walked home from an evening out with a friend, she was sexually assaulted and murdered. She was 35 years old.

"She believed that a woman should be allowed to walk home, and her dreams, her future was brutally taken."

McSweeney had been released from prison on licence on 17 June 2022, days before the killing.

After breaching the conditions of his licence, a decision was made to recall him to prison on 24 June 2022 - two days before he killed Ms Aleena.

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".

The jury was told that 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.

Ms Persaud, reading a statement from a consultant forensic pathologist, said the cause of Ms Aleena's death was blunt force head injury and neck compression.

The inquest continues.