Killer of Sabina Nessa in London Park Faces Life in Prison

Killer of Sabina Nessa in London Park Faces Life in

LONDON — Sabina Nessa, a popular and admired schoolteacher living in southeast London, was intending to meet a friend at a local pub when she left her home and cut through a park on an evening last September.

But on what should have been a five-minute route, the 28-year-old was ambushed. Koci Selamaj, a garage worker, delivered dozens of blows to her head with a metal traffic sign before strangling Ms. Nessa in a premeditated attack of “truly evil violence,” prosecutors said.

A judge on Thursday was expected to sentence Mr. Selamaj, a 36-year-old Albanian, after he admitted in February that he was guilty of her murder — a crime that carries a mandatory life sentence in England.

The attack and killing of Ms. Nessa in a public park in London, part of which was captured on surveillance footage, intensified outrage over what women in particular have viewed as a failure of the authorities to combat gender-based violence in Britain.

The anger over the killing of Ms. Nessa built on outrage that emerged after Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive in London, was kidnapped and murdered by a London police officer, Wayne Couzens, while walking in a public area.

But coverage of the two cases also opened a broader conversation about whether crimes against women of color drew the same attention as those against white women.

Her family and other women’s rights advocates have criticized the media for not giving Ms. Nessa, who is British-Bangladeshi, the same treatment as Ms. Everard.

Ms. Nessa’s family has called Mr. Selamaj’s admission of guilt a step toward gaining justice for her murder but said it would not ultimately end their suffering.

“It’s been such an awful, emotional and heartbreaking time for us,” her sister, Jebina Yasmin Islam, said on Wednesday, asking people to pray for her family.

Ms. Nessa’s death rattled the southeast London community in which she was a beloved figure who was passionate about nature, growing produce and cooking food. Staff at Rushey Green Primary School in Catford, Southeast London, are raising 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,” said Lisa Williams, the school’s head, in a statement after her death.

Prosecutors have said that Mr. Selamaj has not revealed his motives and shown “little remorse,” but they suspect that the killing was sexually motivated.

Mr. Selamaj had driven from the town of Eastbourne in Sussex, about 50 miles south of London, on Sept. 17 with the intention of carrying out an attack and waited around Cator Park.

He saw Ms. Nessa at around 8:30 p.m. and struck her over 30 times, before carrying her to another area of the park and strangling her to death. Her body was found the next day.

Women’s rights groups have called on the government to not only enact harsher punishments for such crimes but also increase policing and focus on prevention programs to educate men and boys.

The government said last month that it would carry out a sweeping education campaign to address gender-based violence and harassment after it received 180,000 responses to a public request for personal experiences and views. Policing authorities have said that they will 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, said the End Violence Against Women Coalition, adding that responsibility was often wrongly placed on women to keep themselves safe.

In 2021, at least 141 British women were killed by men, or in attacks where a man was the primary suspect, according to Counting Dead Women, a project dedicated to tracking such killings.

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