The family of primary school teacher Sabina Nessa have said they are “shocked” by her brutal murder and are still struggling to understand how she did not make it home safely.
Ms Nessa, 28, was taking a five-minute walk to meet a friend at The Depot bar in Pegler Square near her home in Kidbrooke, south-east London, on September 17 at around 8.30pm when she was attacked.
A member of the public found her body close to the OneSpace community centre in Cator Park on Saturday at around 5.30pm.
In a statement released to the PA news agency ahead of a rally at the East London Mosque, her sister Jebina Yasmin Islam said: “We as a family are shocked of the murder of our sister, daughter and aunty to my girls.
“There are no words to describe how we are feeling as a family at the moment.
“We did not expect that something like (this) would ever happen to us.
“I urge everyone to walk on busy streets when walking home from work, school or a friend’s homes. Please keep safe.
“I ask you to pray for our sister and make dua (supplication) for her. May Allah (God) grant her paradise.”
Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust race equality think tank, told PA: “Speaking as a woman and a Londoner from the city’s Bangladeshi community, I’m heartbroken.
“Sabina is related to members of my extended family and everything I know about her speaks of a beautiful, intelligent young woman who had so much life to live, and so, so much to offer in terms of making a positive difference to the people’s lives she touched, not least her family’s and the young children she taught at school.
“Tragically, gender-based violence does not occur in isolation. I do not know how many more women will suffer before our streets are safe.
“What I do know is that Sabina’s death fills all of us with grief. Londoners, regardless of their gender, are hopeful that Sabina’s murderer will be found and brought to justice swiftly.”
Community leaders and Asian women, some of whom said they were too wary to attend a vigil for Ms Nessa on Friday night in south-east London but still wanted to show their solidarity in a location they feel safe, are among those who are gathering at the mosque.
Friday’s events in memory of Ms Nessa come a week after she died and as the public spotlight is thrown on women’s safety and gender-based violence.
Her death comes after the public outrage and protests over the abduction and murder of 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard as she walked home alone in south London in March.
Sufia Alam, of the East London Mosque and the Maryam Centre, said: “This brutal murder of one of our shining stars is genuinely saddening and deeply shocking. I have three daughters, and I can’t even begin to express what I am feeling right now. Sarah Everard was one of our daughters, and so was Sabina Nessa – their lives were tragically cut short – at the hands of violence and brutality.
“We have much work to do against the violence faced by women in our society. We will not stop campaigning until our mothers, sisters and daughters are safe anywhere and everywhere.”
She said this state of affairs is not just about women and girls being vulnerable, “this is about men and boys and educating them early on about respecting and honouring women and girls, and treating them with the dignity they deserve”.
Ms Alam, who is set to be at the east London rally where many women are due to attend, added: “When a Muslim woman is murdered, this dampens the aspirations of other Muslim women and girls in education and employment – and this will be particularly hard for us to deal with and manage.”
Rushanara Ali, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in east London, said: “My thoughts are with Sabina Nessa’s family and friends at this terrible time. Sabina’s horrific murder highlights once again the continued threat of violence faced by women in our communities.
“The Government must do much more to tackle violence against women and girls and ensure that everyone feels safe and protected on our streets.”
Afsana Salik, of the Citizens UK community group, said: “Citizens has been campaigning for eight years to make misogyny a hate crime.”
She added: “We need legislation now and without delay. The need is dire right now as women face countless threats going about in their daily lives.”
Ms Nessa’s murder was raised during a debate at the House of Commons on Wednesday, where safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean told MPs: “Every woman who loses their life is one woman too much and we are devastated to hear of the loss of the life of Sabina Nessa. Our hearts go out to the family.
“This is a Government that is passing legislation, setting out actions and tackling these horrific crimes and we are determined to see a reduction in them.”