Sabina Nessa: Police issue CCTV appeal, as mourners gather to remember London teacher

A candlelit vigil will be held Friday evening in Nessa’s south London neighborhood, to honor her life and demand action to improve safety for women and girls, organizers said. Other gatherings have been planned across Britain in solidarity.

London’s Metropolitan Police said on Thursday that a 38-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of Nessa’s killing, and released closed-circuit television (CCTV) images of another man and a silver vehicle linked to the case, issuing an appeal to the public for more information.

The images of the man show him walking in Pegler Square, in the Kidbrooke area of southeast London, on the evening the 28-year-old was attacked. The silver vehicle was also captured on CCTV near Pegler Square.

“We would ask anyone — especially those in Kidbrooke and the wider area of Lewisham and Greenwich — to take a careful look at these images to check whether you know who this man is or have seen him over recent days,” said Neil John, detective chief inspector from the Met’s specialist crime command.

“Our team have been working tirelessly to find the person responsible for Sabina’s murder and this has included an extensive trawl of CCTV, work which remains ongoing,” John added.

Nessa’s killing comes six months after the assault and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, which sparked a reckoning on gender-based violence in Britain, widespread demonstrations and calls for increased protections for women and girls.

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.

London police officer pleads guilty to murder of Sarah Everard

Her murder 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 (ONS) and the Scottish government.

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.”

Nessa left her home in Kidbrooke around 8:30 p.m. on September 17, to meet a friend at a nearby pub, police said. The journey, which took Nessa through a public park, should have taken just over five minutes. But she never made it to her destination. Nessa’s body was discovered in the park the next day.

In the week since Nessa’s murder, the national conversation has refocused on the lack of safety for women in public spaces, which further deteriorated during the coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns. And, once again, campaigners, politicians and Britons are demanding that the government tackle the epidemic of violence against women and girls.

Police released this image of a silver car in the Pegler Square area that they believe a man they are searching for has access to.
A survey conducted this summer by the ONS found that two out of three women aged 16- to 34-years-old had experienced some form of harassment in the previous 12 months. One in two women felt unsafe walking alone after dark in a quiet street near their home, according to ONS.

British politicians including London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Member of Parliament Janet Daby, who represents the borough where Nessa taught, have demanded that the government act swiftly to save lives.

“We do have an epidemic when it comes to violence against women and girls,” Khan said in an interview with British broadcaster ITV on Thursday, calling for misogyny to be made a hate crime under British law and to criminalize harassment of women in public spaces.
Addressing Parliament on Wednesday, Daby said that Nessa’s life had been brutally taken “like so many before her, through misogynistic violence.”

“How many women’s lives most be stolen before this government takes serious action?” she said.

Sarah Everard's case reminds women of what they already knew: They're never safe
One woman is killed by a man on average 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.

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 activists stress that 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.

Anna Birley, from the women’s safety organization Reclaim These Streets, which is assisting the Kidbrooke community with Friday’s vigil for Nessa, said that in spite of a slew of reports on women’s safety, little had been done by the government to protect them.

“As we mourn the death of Sabina, it’s clear that women are no safer on our streets today than they were in March; despite plenty of reports and consultations, the Government has made little progress on tackling violence against women and girls,” she wrote in an op-ed for the Daily Mail.

“The Government has promised more streetlights and CCTV — but if violence against women and girls could be solved by a few more lampposts, the problem would have been solved long ago.”