Zara Aleena murder accused Jordan McSweeney pictured as he appears in court

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A man has appeared in court accused of murdering an aspiring lawyer on her way home from a night out.

Jordan McSweeney, 29, has been charged with the murder, attempted rape and robbery of Zara Aleena, 35, in East London on Sunday (June 28).

It is believed that Zara was brutally punched to the ground while walking along Cranbrook Road in Ilford, towards Gants Hill station.

McSweeney is accused of robbing her of her mobile phone, keys and handbag during the deadly attack, reports The Sun.

Police said Ms Aleena suffered serious head injuries, which were confirmed in a post-mortem examination. No weapons are thought to have been used.

In a released statement, her family described the last few days as "shocking and unimaginable".

They said: “She walked everywhere. She put her party shoes in a bag and donned her trainers. She walked.

“Zara believed that a woman should be able to walk home. Now, her dreams of a family are shattered, her future brutally taken.

“Sadly, Zara is not the only one who has had her life taken at the hands of a stranger. We all know women should be safe on our streets. She was in the heart of her community, 10 minutes from home.

“In a savage, sickening, act she was murdered by a stranger. She’s not the only woman who has lost her life like this.

“In the moment of this tragedy, we extend our deepest sympathy and love to the families of Bibaa Henry; Nicole Smallman; Sarah Everard; Sabina Nessa; Ashling Murphy and many more women."

The statement said Ms Aleena, a law graduate, had wanted to be a lawyer since the age of five, and described her as “a carefree spirit, with the most caring heart”.

“Zara was happy and at a point in her life when her joy was radiating and blossoming,” her family said.

“She was ready to make a family of her own. Her sense of justice and fairness led her to a life of giving and caring for others – supporting refugees fleeing violence, giving voice to those who had less power.

“She had that special habit of noticing others in need and always put their needs on her agenda.”

McSweeney wore a grey tracksuit to the five-minute hearing, in which no plea was indicated.

The University of Westminster said Ms Aleena was a law graduate who last year gained a postgraduate diploma in legal practice.

A spokeswoman said: “We are shocked and deeply saddened by the news that our former law school student and graduate Zara Aleena has lost her life in such a tragic way. Our thoughts are with Zara’s family and loved ones at this dreadful time.

“She was a warm, gentle and open young woman, popular with both staff and fellow students. She would often go out of her way to help others."

According to reports, Ms Aleena was working as an administrative officer at the Royal Courts of Justice.

McSweeney was told due to the allegation of murder his case will go to the Old Bailey and was denied bail.

The 29-year-old will attend a bail hearing at the court on July 1. He was remanded in custody to attend the Old Bailey on July 27.

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