Man to face murder trial after Zara Aleena ‘dragged into driveway and killed’

A man will stand trial for the murder of law graduate Zara Aleena before the end of this year, a High Court judge has decided.

Jordan McSweeney, 29, allegedly beat the 35-year-old to death as she walked home from a night out in Ilford, east London, in the early hours of June 26.

The defendant is accused of stealing her mobile phone, keys and handbag.

He has been charged with robbery, attempted rape and murder.

During the attack, Ms Aleena was dragged into a driveway in Cranbrook Road, where she was kicked and stamped on, prosecutors alleged.

Emergency services were called after she was found with severe head injuries, struggling to breathe and partially naked.

A post-mortem examination found she had suffered multiple serious injuries.

Following her death, Zara’s family released a statement in which they paid tribute to the “beloved” graduate.

They said: “She put her party shoes in a bag and donned her trainers. She walked.

“Zara believed that a woman should be able to walk home. Now, her dreams of a family are shattered, her future brutally taken.

“We all know women should be safe on our streets. She was in the heart of her community, 10 minutes from home.”

Today, McSweeney, of Dagenham, east London, did not attend the Old Bailey for his scheduled plea hearing.

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb fixed a trial to start at the Old Bailey on December 5.

The senior judge adjourned the plea hearing until Monday October 24.

The defendant is in custody.