A man has been jailed for life after pleading guilty to the murder of 28-year-old teacher Sabina Nessa in a killing that sparked renewed outcry about the UK’s epidemic of violence against women and girls.
Koci Selamaj will serve at least 36 years in jail, after a major investigation led to his identification, arrest and conviction at the Old Bailey in February, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement on Friday.
Police said Nessa had left her home in the London borough of Greenwich just after 8:30 p.m. on September 17. Detectives believe she was walking through Cator Park toward a bar in Pegler Square, where she had planned to meet a friend, because she was running late.
“On 17 September 2021, Koci Selamaj, 36, traveled from Eastbourne to Cator Park in Kidbrooke [south-east London] where he lay in wait for an unsuspecting victim to come his way,” the Metropolitan Police said.
“At around 20:30hrs, he saw Sabina enter the park and carried out a ferocious and sexually motivated attack before fleeing the scene,” police said Friday.
Nessa, a teacher originally from Bedfordshire who lived at an address that overlooked the park, is thought to have been murdered on her journey through the park, the Met said. Her body was found the following afternoon by a man walking his dog.
“The judge said Selamaj had carried out an ‘absolutely appalling murder’,” according to the police statement.
Detective Chief Inspector Neil John, who led the investigation, said: “We have heard today from Sabina’s family and the devastating impact this has had on all of their lives. They have continued to astound us with their dignity and bravery and our thoughts remain with them.
“Those who knew Sabina were not the only ones affected by her murder. Her death struck at the heart of the fears of many women who should have the right to walk in our open spaces safely, no matter the time of day or the location,” John said.
Nessa’s death came six months after the UK was left reeling following the assault and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard.
Everard went missing after leaving a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on March 3. Her body was found a week later, more than 50 miles from where she was last seen. Her killer, a serving police officer, pleaded guilty to her kidnap, rape and murder.
Everard’s story prompted an outpouring across social media from women sharing their own experiences of sexual assault and harassment, catapulting the UK’s damning record on violence against women and girls into the national spotlight.
One in five women in the UK will experience sexual assault during her lifetime, according to London’s Met Police, who said recorded domestic abuse cases in the UK’s capital have increased by 26 per cent in five years. More than 19,000 allegations of sexual offenses were recorded by the Met in 2020-21 alone, the force added in an updated action plan to tackle violence against women and girls across London in April.
Kara Fox contributed reporting.