Zara Aleena’s family described living in a ‘horror movie’ after her brutal murder, but said her death had ‘turned us all into activists’.
A law graduate, Ms Aleena, 35, was an ‘active citizen’ who lived by the principles of fairness and justice.
She was sexually assaulted and killed by a recently released offender who Ms Aleena’s family say showed “extreme indifference” to her life, the law and society.
Speaking as her killer was jailed for life with a minimum sentence of 38 years on Wednesday, Ms Aleena’s aunt Farah Naz said: ‘We want to send a message that this shouldn’t have happened produce.
“Violence must stop against women. Zara shouldn’t have been killed and it was preventable.
“Zara’s death has made us all activists and we won’t stop.”
Ms Naz described her niece as “an assertive, outgoing, articulate and funny person”.
She was trained as a lawyer and was known in the movement to end violence against women and girls before becoming a victim herself.
Ms Naz said: “What she was talking about was fairness and justice and that was her real goal – she saw herself as equal to everyone.”
Upon discovering she had been murdered after a night out in Ilford in June, Ms Naz went into “extreme shock, disbelief, anger and paralysis”.
She said, “We were numb and in disbelief. Even five and a half months later, even after identifying her, even after touching her corpse, even after burying her, it doesn’t count and we are still traumatized.
Ms Naz described being stuck in a ‘disbelief loop’ with footage of her niece’s final moments.
She said: ‘The horror she faced, the pain she had to endure for the duration of her attack, so brutal what was done to her. We are in this pain.
“Are in this loop. We live in a horror movie. We live in something that doesn’t seem real and we keep bumping into walls.
“We think, how did this happen? How did it happen to Zara?
“We’re stuck in the movie with her, we’re watching, our hands are tied and we’re not able to save her.”
On how Ms Aleena would be remembered, Ms Naz said: ‘We don’t want her final hours, her end, to define her.
“Zara literally means shine and she was our heart. The heart of our family. And the heart of her community, the heart of her friends, and that’s how we remember her. That’s what was taken, the heart of us.
“I consider her an ambassador for ending violence against women and girls. And I think she would be really proud to be that.
Of her niece’s killer, Jordan McSweeney, Ms Naz said: ‘We see him as someone who imprinted his pain and anger on Zara and destroyed her with it, and destroyed us. It is clear that he intended to rape and kill her, to destroy her.
“He had an extreme indifference towards his life, the law and the norms of society. He was not afraid of the consequences. It is clear that he is a very dangerous man and therefore we believe that society must be protected from him.
“People were driving down the street, pedestrians were walking and he did what he did that night.”
The family drew strength from the support of people who came together for a vigil a week after the death of their niece.
Ms Naz said: ‘It brought back a bit of faith for us, some trust that there is in fact humanity and that people wanted to support us and stand up against violence against women and that was really fantastic and it made us feel completely held.
“The streets should be safe, Zara should have been allowed to walk home. She should not have been arrested. And the vigil was extremely symbolic. We all held her in our hearts and walked her home. at home.
Ms Naz said there were lessons to be learned on how to prevent violence against women and girls in the future.
She said it was wrong to consider it “inevitable” and said there were many possibilities for intervention to eradicate it.
She asked how the police could better identify potentially violent offenders.
The general public also has a role to play in preventing attacks, she said.
On the night of Ms Aleena’s murder, her killer had already tracked down two lone women and was acting suspiciously, but the police were not alerted.
Ms Naz said: ‘That night women were harassed and there were no reports.
“Zara was an active citizen, a good Samaritan. There is a gap between the way we take care of our fellow citizens, of all of us.
Ms Naz also questioned potential causes of violence in society, including the effect of misogynistic pornography on young men.
She continued, “How many excuses are we going to accept for violence against women? Historically, there have been provocative excuses, dishonor excuses. Currently, we might have excuses for childhood trauma.
Ms Naz said she had not yet been told the results of an investigation into police and probation involvement in the days between McSweeney’s release from prison and the murder.
But she said: “If he were to be arrested, if there was a warrant for his arrest two days before he murdered Zara, we are of course devastated by this news. But we don’t know the full story yet. the story.