Hundreds of mourners lay flowers and lit candles in memory of Sabina Nessa

Sabina Nessa: candlelit vigil held for murdered teacher is attended by hundreds

A vigil paying tribute to the life of Sabina Nessa, the 28-year-old who was found dead in a park in south-east London last week was attended by hundreds who called for an “end to male violence”.

More than 500 people gathered at Pegler Square, Kidbrooke Village at a vigil for murdered teacher Sabina Nessa on Friday night.

The event, to pay tribute to her life and stand in solidarity against the violence she and many other women continue to be subjected to, was organised by the Kidbrooke community and supported by campaign group Reclaim These Streets

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Hundreds of mourners lay flowers and lit candles in memory of Sabina Nessa
Hundreds of mourners lay flowers and lit candles in memory of Sabina Nessa

Prayers and speeches were heard and a minute silence observed in her memory. Jebina Yasmin Islam, Nessa’s sister, broke down as she addressed crowds at the vigil.

She said: “I just want to say thank you to everyone who came today to show support for my sister.”

“We have lost an amazing, caring, beautiful sister, who left this world far too early.”

Crowds gathered with candles to listen to speeches and prayers from Nessa's family
Crowds gathered with candles to listen to speeches and prayers from Nessa's family

Rabina Khan, Liberal Democrat councillor for Shadwell also attended the vigil.

She tells Stylist: “It was a vigil that brought together an entire community. The multicultural, multiracial and multi faith community of Lewisham came out to support Sabina’s family and call for action on the safeguarding of girls and women against male violence.”

“A lot of young women came, mothers with their daughters, men, faith leaders from across communities. People were very calm and quiet, holding each other in support. Some passers by put down their shopping and joined in.”

Khan also called for the government to do more to protect women in public spaces.

“There is a national state of emergency when it comes to the safety of women and young girls, and the government needs to look at this urgently. They’re not taking it seriously. They keep talking about what they’re doing, but it doesn’t manifest into services. These public places, squares, parks and stations need better lighting and more safety cameras.”

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Women’s Equality Party leader Mandu Reid also spoke at the vigil, telling crowds: “We have come together because more than our fear unites us. Because we want to live in a world where every woman and every girl can live free from the fear and threat of violence. 

“We have come together to send a message that enough is enough.”

The body of 28-year-old primary school teacher Nessa was found by a member of the public in Cator Park in Kidbrooke, South London, on Saturday 18 September.

Officers believe that the attack happened on Friday 17 September, shortly after Nessa left her home at around 8.30pm to meet a friend at The Depot bar. So far, two men have been arrested and subsequently released on suspicion of murder.

Sabina's graduation photo was displayed among flowers and fairy lights
Sabina's graduation photo was displayed among flowers and fairy lights

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Police are currently appealing for more information, and have released CCTV images of another man they wish to speak to over Nessa’s death, who can be seen walking in the same area on the evening she was attacked.

Many took to social media to share how poignant attending the vigil was.

Zarah Sultana, Labour MP for Coventry South, told the Independent: “Women are questioning their safety again. [Sabina Nessa] died while on a five minute walk from her house. Which is why the community is in such deep shock.”

Labour MP for Poplar & Limehouse Apsana Begum also attended the vigil. 

Ahead of the event, she shared a statement on Twitter, saying: “We’re reminded in the murder of Sarah Everard and now Sabina Nessa, that safety is not a right afforded to all, it is a privilege.”

“These aren’t isolated incidents and violence does not occur in a vacuum. The government has failed us on the pandemic of gender-based violence.”

Others paid tribute to the “amazing” and “beautiful” vigil honouring Nessa’s memory. 

Videos from the night showed people listening to songs, prayers and poems while wearing purple ribbons, a symbol often associated with campaigns to end domestic violence and male violence against women and girls.

Vigils also took place in Manchester, Brighton and across the country, with people who could not attend encouraged to hold a candle at their doorstep at the same time.

The Metropolitan Police are asking anyone who was in the area on Friday evening and think they saw Sabina or any suspicious behaviour in or around Cator Park to come forward with information by calling the incident room on 0208 721 4266 or Crimestoppers (completely anonymously) on 0800 555 111. 

To find out more about what Stylist is doing to help tackle violence against women and girls in the UK, you can check out our A Fearless Future campaign

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Images: AFP/Getty