British police said on Thursday they had arrested a suspect in the hunt for the murderer of a teacher who was killed in a London park as she made a five-minute walk from her home to meet a friend at a pub.
Sabina Nessa, 28, left her home in south London just before 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 17, making her way through Cator Park towards The Depot Bar on Pegler Square in Kidbrooke Village. She never arrived and her body was found in the park the next afternoon.
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 recognised either to make immediate contact.
“Any information as to his identity or whereabouts could be vital for our investigation,” said Detective Chief Inspector Neil John. A post mortem carried out on Monday was inconclusive, police said.
Nessa’s death comes 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 May 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.
More than 200 women were killed between March 2019 and 2020 in the UK, according to data from the Office for National Statistics and the Scottish government. Around one woman is killed by a man every three days in the UK, according to data from the Femicide Census, an organization that tracks violence against women and girls. The group argues that the government’s new strategy to curb such violence “shamefully ignores” victims of femicide.
Following Nessa’s death, many are pointing out that little has changed. In a message posted to Twitter on Wednesday, Women’s Equality Party leader Mandu Reid said: “The media have been asking today: have things gotten better since Sarah Everard’s murder? The answer is NO.”
Reid added that the “muted” reaction from the press and a “lack of public outcry” for Nessa — a woman of color — “demonstrates, once again, that not all victims are treated with the same respect and reverence.”In the wake of Everard’s murder, the UK media’s problematic relationship with diversity and race was again put under the spotlight.
Many activists and social media users drew a comparison between the coverage of Everard’s killing and the death of a 21-year-old Black business student, Blessing Olusegun, which garnered little national media attention. Olusegun’s body was found on a beach on England’s south coast in September 2020. Her “unexplained” death was not treated as suspicious by local police.
On Thursday, Greenwich Council told CNN that they had handed out 200 personal alarms to women and vulnerable residents in the borough this week “following the horrific murder of Sabina Nessa.”
The small device can be attached to keys and handbags or held, and activate a loud alarm in the event of an attack, a Greenwich Council spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the alarms have been distributed at events since 2019.
But women shouldn’t have to be on the defense. A report from a police watchdog in July said that “radical,” cross-sector reform is needed to protect women and girls from an “epidemic” of crime. Police should make the “relentless” pursuit and disruption of perpetrators a priority, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services said.
From 2008-2018, 1,425 women were killed by men, according to Femicide Census data. The majority (62%) of those murders were committed by a woman’s current or former partner, while 15% of women were killed by men that they knew. One in 12 (8%) of those murders were by strangers.
Speaking on the Good Morning Britain program on Thursday morning, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said “we have to give this issue the same seriousness we give other issues,” adding that it was time to “make misogyny a hate crime.” A vigil, organised by the group “Reclaim These Streets” will be held for Nessa on Friday at 7 p.m. at Pegler Square in Lewisham.