Family members have revealed a ‘murdered’ schoolteacher was ‘just minutes’ from her home before she died, as police continue to hunt for her ‘killer’.
The body of Sabina Nessa, 28, was discovered by a passing dogwalker under a pile of leaves near the OneSpace Community Centre in the busy Cator Park, south-east London.
Police are treating the case as a murder investigation, and believe a stranger may have targeted Ms Nessa before dumping her body in a meadow.
A man in his forties was arrested on suspicion of murder a few hours after her body was found by a dog walker. But yesterday he was released under investigation pending further inquiries.
It comes as fears grow for the safety of women walking home on the streets across the UK following the horrifying murder of 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard in March.
Speaking today, Nessa’s cousin Zubel Ahmed told ITV News the family remain ‘inconsolable’ and revealed she was just ‘five minutes’ from her own home.
He said: ‘The shock has not sunk in. She was a beautiful, kind, caring soul.
‘I express my deepest sympathies for her sisters, mum and dad are absolutely devastated.
‘Nothing is making sense to us, why was she taken from us we just don’t know.
‘She was the sweetest person, sweetest girl, I don’t understand how someone can do this it’s a big loss to our family.’
Sabina Nessa, 28 was ‘just minutes’ from her home before police believe she was killed and dumped under a pile of leaves in the busy Cator Park, south east London
Officers were called at 5.32pm on Saturday after the teacher’s body was found near the OneSpace community centre, a popular area with families and dog walkers in Cator Park, Kidbrooke
A forensics tent in Cator Park in Kidbrooke, south east London, where the teacher was found dead
The primary school teacher, originally from Bedfordshire, is understood to have been just minutes from her home when she was attacked near the OneSpace Community Centre in Cator Park at around 8.30pm on Friday, September 17.
Her body lay undiscovered for several hours because it was ‘off the main park walkway’, according to police. Officers fear she may have been murdered by a stranger.
A post-mortem examination was inconclusive and further tests will now be carried out to establish a cause of death.
The case has chilling connection to the murder of 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard, who was snatched off the street as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south on March 3 by Met Police firearms officer Wayne Couzens.
Her body was found a week later in woodland near Ashford, Kent, just yards from land owned by Couzens, 48. She had been raped and strangled.
But six months later, and women are continuing to speak out about their lack of safety on British streets – with a recent poll finding as many as 48 per cent of women do not feel safe walking alone.
Ms Nessa’s death has sparked a wave of fury over women killed in public spaces in London this year – with campaigners urging action on the ‘epidemic of violence’ facing women.
Campaign group Our Streets Now said: ‘Please, stop telling us we’re overreacting.
‘Sabina Ness, Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman. And these are just the names that we remember.
‘Male violence is killing us. It’s restricting our right to be free and equal citizens.
‘We need change, now.’
Tributes from family and peers flooded in for 28-year-old primary school teacher. Above: Three of Sabina’s friends lay flowers at the entrance to Cator Park
Forensics teams dressed in blue overalls are pictured combing through the grassy murder scene in Cator Park, south east London
A heavy police presence remains in the area days after the body was recovered as increased patrols have been promised. Pictured: Police stand watch at the crime scene in Cator Park
The Year 1 teacher had worked for just over a year at Rushey Green Primary School, three miles away in Catford.
Before landing her first teaching job, she studied sociology at Greenwich University in south-east London and went on to complete a teaching postgraduate degree at the University of Bedfordshire.
Miss Nessa also had a qualification from Cambridge to teach English as a foreign language.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan offered his condolences to Ms Nessa’s family, and promised more police presence on the capital’s streets to alleviate growing fears for women’s safety.
Mr Khan said he was ‘heartbroken’ at news of her passing and tweeted: ‘I’m heartbroken by the death of Sabina Nessa. My thoughts are with her family, friends and the whole community.
‘I urge anyone who was in the area to contact the Met – any information will be vital in the investigation and help bring the perpetrator to justice.
‘Women and girls deserve to feel safe at all times, in every part of our city, and I remain committed and determined to making our city safer.’
Headteacher at her Lewisham school, Lisa Williams, said yesterday: ‘We are devastated by Sabina’s tragic death. She was a brilliant teacher; she was kind, caring and absolutely dedicated to her pupils.
‘She had so much life ahead of her and so much more to give and her loss is desperately sad.
‘As a school we are supporting each other through this very difficult time, and we will be providing specialist support to those who need it.’
Flowers left at the edge of the park where police have sealed off an area of meadow
Sabina’s friends embrace as they pay their respects at the entrance to Cator Park, south east London on Tuesday
On Friday, officers sealed off the area and were seen standing guard while investigators collected evidence
It comes as residents told MailOnline they now fear leaving their homes after dark following the death of Ms Nessa.
Detectives are investigating whether she was attacked by a stranger – leaving locals fearful of returning to the usually busy park often packed with dog walkers and joggers.
One local resident aged 33 who only gave her named as Naey said: ‘I’ve been wary of going out after dark every since I heard about them finding the body.
‘I use the park to come from the station as a shortcut. There’s always people coming and going.
‘It’s scary and unnerving that it has happened so close to the main road. There surely must have been witnesses. I can’t quite believe it.’
George Williams, 41, who has operated his mobile fish and chip van Billingsgate Wrap regularly from the new Kidbrooke Village apartment complex over the last three years, said: ‘This is absolutely shocking.
‘If it is a random attack by a stranger then it is extremely worrying for everyone who lives around here.
‘I hope the police can catch whoever committed this terrible crime.
‘The park is very open and exposed but is usually pretty busy with joggers and walkers. Surely someone must have saw something.’
Officers revealed they were stepping up patrols and increasing their presence around the Kidbrooke Village neighbourhood for the next week.
Meanwhile, investigators told the Evening Standard that ‘a number of crime scenes are in place’ and a massive forensic inquiry is underway as they continue to investigate the alleged murder.
A large section of Cator park between Cambert Way and the edge of the Kidbrooke Park Village housing development remains sealed off with police tape.
The cordoned off area includes the One Space Community Centre, tennis courts and skatepark.
A candlelit vigil in memory of Sabina Nessa is set to take place on Friday evening at Peglar Square.
Organisers are encouraging people to bring their own candles to light as they pay respects to Ms Nessa.
Reclaim These Streets, an organisation campaigning for the safety of women and girls which planned a vigil for Sarah Everard in March, said in a statement: ‘We are angry and heartbroken to hear about the loss of yet another woman.
‘This is an epidemic of violence against women. Enough with reports, what is the actual plan to keep us safe and alive?’