LONDON (AP) — British police investigating the killing of a 28-year-old woman in London said Thursday they are probing whether she was attacked by a stranger, in a case that sparked new concerns for the safety of women walking the capital’s streets.
The Metropolitan Police are calling for information over the killing of primary school teacher Sabina Nessa on Sept. 17 in Kidbrooke, southeast London. Detectives believe she was attacked during what would have been a five-minute walk through a local park on her way to meet a friend at a pub.
A spokesman 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.
Nessa’s body was discovered almost 24 hours after her death in a local park by a member of the public.
A man in his 40s was arrested on suspicion of murder but he has been released under further investigation. Results from a post-mortem examination carried out on Monday were inconclusive.
“Sabina’s journey should have taken just over five minutes but she never made it to her destination,” Detective Inspector Joe Garrity said. “We know the community are rightly shocked by this murder — as are we — and we are using every resource available to us to find the individual responsible.”
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.
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.”