Schoolteacher’s murder in London renews fears about women’s safety

British police said on Thursday they had arrested a suspect in the hunt for the assailant who killed a teacher in a London park as she made a five-minute walk from her home to meet a friend at a pub. The case has sparked new concerns for the safety of women walking the city’s streets.

Sabina Nessa, 28, left her home in south London just before 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 17, making her way through Cator Park toward The Depot Bar on Pegler Square in Kidbrooke Village.

She never arrived and her body was found in the park the next afternoon.

“Sabina’s journey should have taken just over five minutes but she never made it to her destination,” said Det. Insp. Joe Garrity.

Police later said they had arrested a 38-year-old man in Lewisham, south London, on suspicion of murder. They also released pictures taken from security TV footage of a man and a vehicle, appealing to anyone who recognized either to make immediate contact.

“Any information as to his identity or whereabouts could be vital for our investigation,” said Det. Chief Insp. Neil John.

A post-mortem carried out on Monday was inconclusive, police said.

‘Epidemic’ violence

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said authorities are recruiting more police officers and had introduced a strategy to tackle violence against women and girls earlier this year.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Thursday described the violence against women as a national “epidemic.”

“We have to got give this issue the same seriousness we give other issues,” he told ITV. More than 180 women have been killed by men across England from March 2020, he added.

A vigil is due to be held in Nessa’s memory on Friday.

A cousin of Nessa told the BBC that the 28-year-old’s parents are “inconsolable.” Lisa Williams, the headteacher of Rushley Green Primary School where she worked, remembered Nessa as “brilliant,” “kind” and “caring.”

The case came just a few months after the abduction, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard in south London by a serving police officer. The Everard case shocked the country and saw thousands take to the streets to denounce violence against women

Anger over police response during U.K. violence against women protest

Khan stressed he believed that violence against women and girls should be treated more seriously.

“I think this deserves the same priority as counterterrorism. I agree with the inspector who called this an epidemic,” he said.

The mayor also mourned the deaths of sisters Bibaa Henry, 46, and Nicole Smallman, 27, who were both murdered in a park in Wembley, north London, by 19-year-old Danyal Hussein in June 2020.

Safeguarding Minister Rachel Maclean told the House of Commons on Wednesday: “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.”

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