‘It’s devastating’: vigils held across UK in memory of Sabina Nessa

“一世 couldn’t sleep last night thinking about her,” said Mariana Kappenberg, 31, who has lived in Pegler Square, 伦敦东南部, for the past two years. A vigil was held on Friday evening in the square in memory of Sabina Nessa, the 28-year-old primary school teacher whose killing has triggered an outpouring of emotion and anger, especially among women.

The five-minute journey that Nessa was due to take from home to the Depot bar was one that Kappenberg herself has done many times.

“I walk over the hill and through the park all the time, often after dark. It’s so peaceful here – you would never expect anything like this,“ 她说, standing in Cator Park, looking on as people came together under a clear blue sky to pay their respects and leave flowers, candles and even a pearl necklace along Cambert Way, near where Nessa’s body was found.

As darkness fell, bringing a chill to the air, hundreds gathered in Pegler Square bearing candles, lanterns, flowers and handwritten notes for Sabina. A picture of the much-loved teacher was displayed on a wooden easel, surrounded by fairy lights. The sound of water running from the fountains filled the square.

Nessa’s sister, Jebina, thanked the crowd through her tears. “We have lost an amazing, caring, beautiful sister who left this world far too early. She didn’t reach her 29th birthday next month,“ 她说. “Sabina loved her family. We have lost a sister, my parents have lost their daughter, and my girls have lost such a brilliant and caring auntie who dearly loved them.

“Words cannot describe how we are feeling. It feels like we are stuck in a bad dream and can’t get out of it. Our world is shattered. We have simply lost the words. No family should go through what we are going through.”

The police cordon was lifted earlier in the day and the row of flowers grew steadily in the buildup to the event. One card read: “For Sabina – RIP. With love and regret that you lost your life in this senseless way.” Another said: “Dear Sabina, I miss you so very much. RIP my beautiful friend.” As of Friday evening, police feared that the prime suspect for her murder was still at large.

Local organisers held the vigil, supported by the group Reclaim These Streets, which organised gatherings after the murder of Sarah Everard eight miles away in south-west London, 三月, and of the sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman in north-west London in June 2020.

Several miles away in Whitechapel, the East London Mosque also held a community rally at its Maryam Centre in a stand for justice and solidarity for Nessa. The mosque said there had been great demand for such an event, particularly among women in the community who were already feeling vulnerable, and either could not make the trip down to Kidbrooke or did not feel safe doing so.

A statement from her uncle, Shahin Miah, was read out. He described his niece as “a kind and open-minded person”, who was “always smiling and helping others”. He said her death has “once again brought to the fore the question of women’s safety on the streets”.

他说: “In a country like the UK, this insecurity of women is deeply worrying. We don’t want what happened to Sabina to happen to anyone else. We don’t want any other mother’s chest to be empty or filled with deep sorrow, or to see the tears in the eyes of any father.”

Vigils were also held up and down the country, from Glasgow to Margate to Bath. Those who could not attend a physical or virtual vigil were invited to light a candle on their doorstep in Sabina’s memory, reminiscent of tributes in the aftermath of Everard’s death. The prime minister’s official Twitter account tweeted a photo of the door to 10 Downing Street with a lit candle on the doorstep, and the words: “Tonight we remember Sabina Nessa.”

Kappenberg said there were many in the local community in Kidbrooke who felt saddened that Nessa’s death had not initially received as much attention as it should in the media. “It’s devastating whenever something like this happens, and it shouldn’t be more so for one than another, so people do feel frustrated about that,“ 她说.

Laying down a box of Quality Street for Nessa’s schoolchildren and a candle was Josephine Addley, 47, a special educational needs teacher. She had come early to pay her respects before heading to her second job. “My son learned to walk in this park. It’s such a quiet, peaceful area. I can’t believe this happened to her,“ 她说.

Several speakers, who included local MPs, invited the crowd to say her name: Sabina Nessa. DCI Trevor Lawry told those gathered: “Please help us catch the person responsible for this shocking incident.” He urged them to work with the police and “please do not forget Sabina. Say her name and remember her.” Faith leaders then led a minute’s silence, followed by a poetry reading and a song that moved many onlookers to tears.

Police sealed off an area just behind the vigil as the investigation into her murder continued.

“I just feel really angry,” said 56-year-old psychotherapist Julie Andrews after the vigil ended. She lives a 20-minute walk away and often walks her dog in Sutcliffe Park, near where Nessa’s body was found. Before setting off on her walk back home, Andrews reflected: “I always feel unsafe. I hate that women can’t walk the streets. I want women to not be blamed.”