Newham vigils hear demands for violence towards women to stop


About 120 people attended vigils in Newham held in honour of Sabina Nessa last Friday (October 1). - Credit: Jon King

Calls for men to stop being violent towards women and girls have been made at vigils honouring Sabina Nessa.

Candles were lit and flowers placed before photos of Ms Nessa as about 120 people attended events in Central Park and Plashet Park, East Ham, on Friday, October 1.


A prayer is said as candles are lit and flowers laid at a vigil in Plashet Park held to honour Sabina Nessa who was killed in south east London. - Credit: Jon King

Police believe the 28-year-old teacher was killed in Cator Park, Kidbrooke, while on her way to meet a friend. Her body was found in the park on September 18. 

The vigils also followed Sarah Everard's killer, former police officer Wayne Couzens, being sentenced to life at the Old Bailey on September 30.

The bodies of Henriett Szucs and Mary Jane Mustafa were found in a freezer in Custom House. Pictures

The bodies of Henriett Szucs and Mary Jane Mustafa were found in a freezer in Custom House. Pictures: Ellie Hoskins and Ayse Hussein. - Credit: Archant

In Newham in recent years, Kelly Stewart, Mary Jane Mustafa and Henriett Szucs died at the hands of men. 

Sabia Kamali

Sabia Kamali of Sisters Forum which was set up to engage, empower and educate women from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds. - Credit: Jon King

Sabia Kamali from the women's group Sisters Forum - which organised the Central Park vigil - said: "All women should feel safe on the streets and at home.

"Violence against women and girls is not a women's safety issue - it's a male violence issue."

Richard Tucker

Newham's top cop, Det Ch Supt Richard Tucker, offers to show critics of the Met Police the work officers do to keep women and girls safe. - Credit: Sylvie Belbouab

The vigil was attended by borough commander Det Ch Supt Richard Tucker, who described the sentencing of Couzens as "a dark day" for the Met.

"The cops who work locally are your police. The expectations I have of them are your expectations. We come to work 24 hours a day to keep people safe," he added.


Candles at the foot of the Cenotaph in Central Park, East Ham. - Credit: Jon King

Ayse Hussain called for a memorial to remember her cousin Mary Jane and Henriett, whose bodies were found in Custom House. Their killer, Zahid Younis, was jailed for life on September 3, 2020.

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She alleged the police failed to act when Mary Jane went missing in 2018.

"Whoever you are, everyone should be treated the same," she said.

A spokesperson said the Met takes missing person reports incredibly seriously with officers carrying out "unbiased" risk assessments based on each case.

Rokhsana Fiaz and Ayse Hussain

Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, and Ayse Hussain discuss the case of Mary Jane Mustafa whose body was found with Henriett Szucs's in Custom House. - Credit: Sylvie Belbouab

At Plashet Park's vigil, organised by Cllr Moniba Khan, fellow Newham councillor Pushpa Makwana urged women and girls to report harassment.

Speakers included councillors Harvinder Singh Virdee, Ayesha Chowdhury, Sabina's uncle Farooq Mian and East Ham MP Stephen Timms.

He said: "[Sabina's] loss is a terrible tragedy. Too often people feel unsafe and events like this tragic death make everybody feel on edge. We mustn't rest until it is the case that it is safe to walk up and down the street."


Tributes to Sabina Nessa at the vigil held in Plashet Park. - Credit: Stephen Timms MP

Carel Buxton, who chairs West Ham Labour constituency, said: "There's a very serious epidemic of violence in our society and we have to make a change.

"We have to fight for that change. There will never be liberation for women in our society without solidarity."

Sabina Nessa

Sabina Nessa was found dead near the OneSpace community centre in Cator Park on Saturday, September 18. - Credit: Met Police