"she was the victim of an opportunist stranger attack."
An aspiring lawyer was beaten to death as she walked along Cranbrook Road, towards Gants Hill Station in Ilford, in the early hours of June 26, 2022.
Paramedics arrived at the scene at 2:45 am after Zara Aleena was found by members of the public.
The thirty-five-year-old later died in hospital.
Police believe she was the victim of an “opportunist stranger attack”.
A 29-year-old man was arrested at an address in Ilford on suspicion of murder.
In a statement, Chief Superintendent Stuart Bell said:
“It is now believed that she was the victim of an opportunist stranger attack.
“Her family are aware of this and they will continue to be updated.”
He added there was no evidence of any weapons being used in the beating, which left the aspiring lawyer with fatal head injuries.
A post-mortem examination revealed she had “multiple serious injuries”.
CSI Bell said a full forensic examination of the scene and surrounding area had taken place, as had house-to-house inquiries.
Detectives were focused on identifying all available CCTV and anyone who may have been in the area, including those driving through.
He said they should contact the Met.
CSI Bell described officers as working “at pace” to establish what had happened.
Friends of Ms Aleena said she was “so soft and gentle, she never had a bad word to say about anyone”.
Ms Aleena graduated from the University of Westminster in October 2021 and had been working at the Royal Courts of Justice as an administrative officer since May 2022.
Her friends believe the aspiring lawyer was on her way home from a night out with friends, adding that she walked everywhere, preferring not to drive.
Shopkeeper Kuldip Singh said he was concerned by the level of violence in the area, highlighting how Ms Aleena’s death was the third murder in five years.
He said: “This one was quite brutal. It was a young lady but people don’t really feel safe in this location as much as they used to.
“If I was an elderly person or a female, especially in the winter months, walking through this road you could be at risk.”
CSI Bell understood that Ms Aleena’s death was an “incredibly distressing incident” for women.
He said: “Women should not have to change their behaviour and should be able to go about their business feeling safe any time of day or night and it is our job to ensure that happens.
“Officers cannot be in all places at all times.
“We urge the community, especially women, to report any suspicious or unwanted behaviour or to seek help if you feel threatened.”
According to data collected by the Met Police, British Transport Police and City of London Police, 35% of London’s 46 homicide victims in 2022 have been women.
This is an increase compared to the same period in 2021 where out of 58 victims, 21% were women.