Scotland Yard has said London’s streets are safe for women as it investigates whether a primary school teacher was killed by a stranger who is still at large.
Sabina Nessa, 28, is suspected to have been murdered as she walked through Cator Park in south-east London, on what should have been a five-minute journey to a pub from her nearby home, at about 8.30pm last Friday.
Her body was found near the OneSpace community centre in the park off Kidbrooke Park Road, Greenwich, at 5.30pm on Saturday by a member of the public.
Speaking from the crime scene, DCS Trevor Lawry, of the Metropolitan police, said London’s streets “are safe for women”, although he was unable to rule out that Nessa’s killer could strike again.
Her killing, which follows the high-profile murders of Sarah Everard and the sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, has once more prompted debate over the safety of women and girls on Britain’s streets.
Lawry said he was “keeping a completely open mind” on the motives of the attacker but was concerned that they were still on the loose.
Asked whether the Met was worried that the killer could attack someone else, he said: “We have lines of inquiry that we’re pursuing at the moment. It’s always a concern that it may happen, but that’s not something that we have any intelligence on at this time.”
Asked whether he believed a stranger was behind the attack, Lawry added: “That’s definitely a line of inquiry that we’re looking at.” He went on: “The streets are safe for women, I’d like to reassure the public around that, I’d like to make sure that people are free to walk around free from fear and my officers will make sure that that can take place.”
The headteacher of the primary school where Nessa worked called her a brilliant teacher. Photograph: LinkedIn
Nessa is understood to have been heading towards the Depot bar in Pegler Square, Kidbrooke Village, when she was attacked. A postmortem examination, carried out on Monday into the cause of death, was inconclusive.
A man in his 40s who was arrested on suspicion of murder has been released under further investigation.
DI Joe Garrity, who is leading the murder inquiry, said: “Sabina’s journey should have taken just over five minutes but she never made it to her destination. We know the community is rightly shocked by this murder – as are we – and we are using every resource available to us to find the individual responsible.”
Nessa was raised in Sandy, Bedfordshire, and attended the University of Bedfordshire to study for her postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE).
A few doors down from the Nessa family home in Sandy, a neighbour, Carol Ball, said the whole street was in shock following the news. “What can you say? I spoke to her dad and he’s in a daze,” the 76-year-old said. “I’ve known her since she was just a little girl. She was lovely, so well-mannered and well brought up, all the girls were. They all did well at school and with their driving.”
She said the family had lived on the street for at least 20 years. “They would talk to everyone down the road and the girls would play out on the road when they were younger. We’re just in shock, she was only 28.”
Another neighbour, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “They were a nice quiet family, I’ve known them a long time. I was absolutely shocked when I heard the news. I put a card through the door but they’ve got to be left alone to grieve.”
Colleagues and neighbours have paid tribute to Nessa. Lisa Williams, the headteacher of Rushey Green primary school in Lewisham, called her a brilliant teacher and said the school was “devastated”.
Annie Gibbs, the vice-chair of the Kidbrooke forum community group, said people in the area were shocked and scared. “We want people to respect and honour her life and make sure that we send a loud and clear message that we are a united community and this violent act isn’t going to divide us. Violence isn’t welcome here and we will stand up against it. Although many people didn’t know Sabina, our community is one,” she said.
Floral tributes at Cator Park in Kidbrooke, south London, near to the scene where Sabina Nessa’s body was found. Photograph: Ian West/PA
Campaign groups have said that for too long the burden of women’s safety has been on women, adding that a woman dies at the hands of a man every three days in England.