Sabina Nessa: 'Predatory' Koci Selamaj pleads guilty to murder of London teacher

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A "predatory" man has pleaded guilty to murdering primary school teacher Sabina Nessa.

Koci Selamaj, 36, pleaded guilty to the 28-year-old Londoner's murder during a hearing at the Old Bailey on Friday.

Prosecutors told the court there was a 'sexual element' to the garage worker's decision to drive to London from his Eastbourne home to carry out a pre-meditated attack on a woman with “extreme violence”.

He lurked around Cator Park before attacking Ms Nessa as she set off to walk through the Kidbrooke, south-east London, green on her way to meet a friend on September 17, 2021.

The defendant entered Cator Park shortly after 8pm and lay in wait for half an hour before Ms Nessa arrived.

CCTV footage captured the moment Selamaj swiftly overwhelmed his victim by repeatedly striking her with a 2ft long weapon believed to be a traffic triangle, before carrying her away unconscious.

'Predatory' garage worker Koci Selamaj was captured on CCTV in Pegler Square on the evening Sabina Nessa was attacked

Selamaj had delivered 34 blows to Ms Nessa with the metal traffic triangle before strangling her, the court heard.

He disposed of the weapon in a river on his way back to the south coast.

He had also bought a rolling pin which was not used in the attack.

It is alleged that Selamaj then strangled her in undergrowth in what was suspected to be a sexually-motivated attack.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said the murder of Ms Nessa involved a sexual or sadistic element.

She told the court: “The prosecution submit that the circumstances in which Ms Nessa’s body was found demonstrated a sexual motive.”

She said the defendant had removed Ms Nessa’s tights and underwear and exposed parts of her body.

Sabrina Nessa's sister, Jebina Yasmin Islam, arriving at the Old Bailey in London for the plea hearing. Credit: PA

The body of Ms Nessa, who was originally from Sandy in Bedfordshire, and taught a year one class at Rushey Green Primary School in Catford, was found nearly 24 hours later covered with grass near a community centre in the park.

Selamaj, from Eastbourne, East Sussex, was arrested in the south coast seaside town and charged over her death days later.

At the Old Bailey hearing on Friday, Selamaj, an Albanian national, pleaded guilty to murder.

The court heard he had previously been violent towards his former partner, putting his hands around her throat in a strangling motion.

At a previous hearing, Ms Morgan described his actions as a "premeditated and predatory attack on a stranger.”

Ms Morgan said the attack was carried out with “extreme violence”.

The defendant had no previous convictions and was not known to his victim.

A forensic team in Greenwich at the scene where Sabina Nessa was attacked

Ms Nessa had made plans to meet a friend at The Depot bar in Kidbrooke Village on the evening of September 17.

From her home, her route took her through Cator Park where Selamaj was waiting.

Ms Morgan told the previous hearing some of Ms Nessa's movements through the park and the attack on her were captured on CCTV footage.Three days before the attack, the defendant put his plan into action by booking a room at the five-star Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, the town where he already had accommodation.

His reservation was for the night of September 17 and he arrived earlier in the day to check in.

He spoke to hotel staff and was captured walking through the lobby wearing the same clothes as the suspect later caught on CCTV in Kidbrooke.

Floral tributes at Cator Park in Kidbrooke, south London Credit: Laura Parnaby/PA

The defendant’s Nissan Micra was tracked by ANPR cameras and cell site evidence was gathered to identify his movements from Eastbourne to south London later that day.

The evidence showed the defendant also used his bank card at Sainsbury’s in Kidbrooke.

He was captured in footage wearing “distinctive” trainers with a thick white sole which were later seized from his house and found to have blood traces on them.

Ms Morgan described the CCTV footage in a previous hearing: “The defendant is seen in effect loitering in locations around the park before spotting the deceased, checking to see if anyone else was nearby before turning and running after her.

“He is then seen to move towards the deceased and striking her repeatedly using a weapon which was approximately 2ft in length.

Hundreds attend a vigil in memory of Sabina Nessa. Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

“In fact it was a weapon which appeared to break up during the course of the many strikes on the deceased.

“The CCTV footage shows the defendant then carrying the deceased, who appeared to be unconscious by that point, up a bank and effectively out of sight.”

Selamaj’s actions afterwards were out of camera shot, but Ms Nessa was not seen alive again.

The prosecutor continued: “The male did appear after 10 minutes.

“He is seen to pick up pieces of the weapon that had broken on the ground and then moved back to the area the deceased was located for another 10 minutes.”

Shortly before 9pm, Selamaj was seen using wet wipes to clean a bench.

Phone data and traffic cameras captured the defendant returning to Eastbourne, arriving at the £170-a-night Grand Hotel just after midnight.

He stayed the night at the hotel and checked out in the morning.

In a police interview, the defendant made no comment except to deny murder when asked directly if he was responsible for killing Ms Nessa.

Earlier this year, a lawyer for the Selamaj confirmed that he accepted being the person caught on CCTV and that he had hit Ms Nessa a number of times.

Speaking outside court, Ms Nessa’s sister Jebina Islam broke down in tears as she told how the guilty plea was "difficult to digest".

She said it was a "step in the right direction" but did not bring her sister back.

"We as a family are broken and there is not a day that goes by that we do not think of her," she said.

"There are no words to describe the pain we are going through and the pain which he has caused.

"The fact we will never know the motive for why he killed our sister is not only frustrating but heartbreaking.

"No family should go through what we are going through, and each day is not getting any easier."

Detective Chief Inspector Neil John said: “She was a much loved, popular young woman who had her whole life ahead of her.”

Throughout the criminal process, Ms Nessa’s family had “astounded with their dignity” and shown the “utmost bravery” in coming to court and facing the man who killed her, he said.

Sabina Nessa was on her way to meet a friend at The Depot in Kidbrooke

“Her future was cruelly taken away when she was murdered by Koci Selamaj a total stranger who to this day has never explained why he carried out this senseless attack.

“I do not want to waste words on this cowardly evil man apart from saying we are relieved he will now spend the vast majority of his life in prison.”

DCI John also said the investigation that identified the killer was “complex and challenging” with officers trawling through hundreds of hours of CCTV evidence.

The murder of Ms Nessa heightened concern for the safety of women and girls in the capital following the stranger murders of Sarah Everard, and sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman.

Previously, Ms Nessa’s family have said: “No family should ever have to go through this. We need our leaders to step up, and we need our communities to step up.

“We need our country to step up and stand with us and say no more violence against women.

“We also hope that everyone remembers Sabina as the joyful, happy, dedicated person that loved teaching and contributing to the community that she loved dearly.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said it had been a horrific and tragic case and her thoughts and prayers were with Ms Nessa’s family and friends.

She said: “While such depraved acts are thankfully rare, I know that women and girls across the UK will be thinking of their own experiences. Let me assure them that as Home Secretary I will do everything in my power to protect them from violence and to make our country safer for everyone.”

Mr Justice Sweeney adjourned sentencing until April 7.