Man accused of killing Zara Aleena covers face with his hands in court

A man accused of murdering Zara Aleena covered his face with his hands as he was remanded in custody today.

Jordan McSweeney, 29, is charged with the murder of Zara Aleena, 35, who was just minutes from her home in Ilford, East London in the early hours of Sunday when she was attacked.

McSweeney, from Dagenham, appeared at the Old Bailey this morning.

McSweeney is also accused of robbing Zara of her mobile phone, keys and handbag, and attempted penetration without consent.

He appeared via video link from HMP Thameside wearing a green jumper.

He was seen covering his face with his hands ahead of the hearing before sitting back in his chair.

McSweeney spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth.

Zara was assaulted as she walked home from a night out, according to her devastated family, who said that she believed in “being able to walk everywhere.”

Police were called to the scene in Cranbrook Road just before 2.45am on Monday following reports of an injured woman.

Zara died later that day in the hospital.

Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow, QC, told the court that Zara had allegedly been “dragged” into a driveway before she was “kicked and stamped on” repeatedly.

Zara’s family released a statement through the Met in which they paid tribute to the “beloved” victim.

They went on to say she “walked everywhere”.

The statement read: “She put her party shoes in a bag and donned her trainers. She walked. Zara believed that a woman should be able to walk home.

“Now, her dreams of a family are shattered, her future brutally taken.

“Sadly, Zara is not the only one who has had her life taken at the hands of a stranger. We all know women should be safe on our streets. She was in the heart of her community, 10 minutes from home.

“We all need to be talking about what happened to OUR ZARA, we all need to be talking about this tragedy.

“These last few days have been shocking and unimaginable.”

Zara was a carer for her mum and grandma, and regularly made the trip between their address and her own at all times of day and night.

She had recently completed her legal training to allow her to begin practising as a solicitor.

In the weeks before her death, she had started a two-year placement at the Crown Prosecution Service as part of her qualifications.

McSweeney was remanded in custody and he will next appear at the Old Bailey on September 30 for a plea hearing.