Zara Aleena’s killer, Jordan McSweeney, jailed for Ilford sex attack days after prison release

Aleena was only minutes away from her front door, instead she was left to die on a driveway, as Helen Keenan reports

A career criminal has been jailed for at least 38 years for the “brutal sexually motivated murder” of law graduate Zara Aleena within days of him being released from prison.

Jordan McSweeney was caught on CCTV drunkenly lurching in the street after being ejected from a pub for pestering a female member of staff.

He followed three women and confronted a fourth before he targeted 35-year-old Ms Aleena as she walked home from a night out early on Sunday June 26.

McSweeney stalked her along Cranbrook Road in Ilford, east London before grabbing her from behind and dragging her into a driveway.

Above: CCTV shows Jordan McSweeney following women in east London

Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow KC said: "Despite being only yards from a public street and from residential properties, the defendant attacked Zara Aleena with a savagery that is almost impossible to believe.

"He repeatedly kicked and stamped on her head and body, he tore some of her clothes from her body in order that he could sexually assault her, and then he attacked her again, kicking and stamping on her face and neck, and returning several times to continue the brutal violence.

"Finally, once satisfied that she would no longer be able to report him for what he had done, he walked away, taking her mobile telephone with him which he threw over a garden wall, thus ensuring that neither she nor anyone else who might find her could use the phone to call for help.

"He walked back the caravan where he was living and the following morning, having hidden the bloodstained clothes and shoes he had been wearing during the attack, was seen laughing and joking with his friends; seemingly without any concern for what he had done or for the fate he had forced upon Zara Aleena."

Above: Body worn police camera shows the moment Jordan McSweeney was arrested

Ms Aleena was found with severe head injuries and struggling to breathe.

Emergency services were called at 2.44am but she died in hospital from compression to the neck and blunt force to the head.

The court was shown CCTV of McSweeney as he stalked at least two other women before turning his attention on Ms Aleena.

Her family left court as grainy footage of the moment she was snatched was played.

Ms Glasgow said: "Mercifully, the quality is not sufficiently good to see exactly what happened.

"Just after 2.15am, Jordan McSweeney grabbed Zara Aleena from behind with both arms.

"One arm appears to cover her mouth, and the other appears to go around her neck. He then dragged Zara Aleena backwards into the paved driveway… and took her to the ground in the corner of the drive.

"She did all she could to fight him off but she had no idea he was behind her and she must have been terrified as the bigger and stronger Jordan McSweeney dragged her into the darkness and out of sight from any potential rescuer."

Above: Det Chief Inspector David Whellams describes the moment he found out about Zara's death

Mr Glasgow told the court that the attack lasted nine minutes and resulted in 46 separate injuries.

Afterwards, he took some of Ms Aleena’s clothes, keys and purse which he threw away.

The prosecutor said McSweeney “treated Zara Aleena’s belongings with the same appalling distain with which he had treated her life” – casting them away like “any other insignificant piece of rubbish”.

The court was previously told McSweeney was a prolific offender and had been released from prison on licence on June 17 – just days before the murder.

He had been in prison for criminal damage, racially aggravated harassment and unauthorised possession of a knife in prison.

In all, he has 28 previous convictions for 69 separate offences including burglary, theft of a vehicle, criminal damage, assaulting police officers and assaulting members of the public while on bail.

The Metropolitan Police said the Probation Service began recall proceedings on June 22 after he missed two appointments.

The force said it was informed on June 24 and attended an address linked to McSweeney the following day to arrest him but he was not there, and he was subsequently arrested on June 27.

Above: Map showing route Zara took before the attack

A spokesperson said: “The actions of officers following McSweeney’s recall to prison were reviewed by officers from the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards who found there was no indication of misconduct.”

In mitigation, his barrister, George Carter-Stephenson KC, outlined McSweeney’s “far-from-ideal” childhood in which domestic violence was “the norm”.

His mother was a drug addict and his father was largely absent, he said.

George Carter-Stephenson told the court McSweeney was “truly for sorry for what he has done”.

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb queried: “Where is the evidence of that?”

The defence lawyer said it was what he had been instructed by his client to convey.

The senior judge replied: “That is not evidence I am prepared to accept.”

Mr Carter-Stephenson added that his remorse was demonstrated by his guilty plea and McSweeney had said that “when he thinks about it, it makes him feel sick”.

The judge adjourned the court briefly to consider her sentencing. She give the defence team the opportunity to see McSweeney in the cells and try to persuade him to come up to receive his sentence.

"Assertive, outgoing and funny," that's how Zara Aleena's aunt described her. Farah Naz told us the heart of her family left the day Zara died, but that she'll be remembered for being a good samaritan and a lovely friend to everyone. Watch the full interview below.

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