“Her life matters”: how Sabina Nessa’s death united a community of grief and fear
As I sat on the train, heading to a place I had never been to before, to mourn the loss of a young woman I had never met before, I looked around. I wondered who else seemed to be making the same trip, on a freezing Friday, to a South East London vigil for murdered schoolteacher Sabina Nessa, to speak her name.
A student in a denim jacket approached me. Like me, she said she was afraid to walk alone in a new place. We got off the train at Kidbrooke station, near Blackheath, and ended up walking together, joining the stream of mourners. Many held handmade signs, as candles and floral tributes piled up on every surface.
In the center of Pegler Square, where Sabina Nessa was traveling to meet a friend the previous Friday, September 17, was an image of the 28-year-old in her graduation gown surrounded by fairy lights. It was the kind of decorations you would normally see at an Asian wedding, not a memorial.
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Sabina, a first-grade teacher at a local primary school, was a five-minute walk from leaving home to meeting a friend in Kidbrooke, south-east London, when she disappeared. His body was discovered 24 hours later by a dog walker, hidden under a pile of leaves, a few feet from a busy trail in Cator Park, a popular spot for local families. This week, a 36-year-old man was charged with the murder of Sabina, which he denies.
The murder left the tight-knit multicultural community in shock, but also determined to defend Sabina and take a stand against gender-based violence.
“I wanted to show that his life matters”
Among the hundreds of people gathered last Friday, there was a local resident, Huma Sabir, who was at the vigil with her daughter.
“Although I don’t know her, we take the same path that Sabina took every day and sometimes I think, maybe I walked past her. The region is so beautiful. Who knew it would take lives like this, ”Huma told me.
“We wanted to show that we are with his family in this difficult time. It could have been me or anyone. We are no longer safe in this area. It is very moving. “
For Ayesha Masud, 26, from Tooting, Sabina’s death struck near her home. “I have cousins who are teachers and looking at the photo of her feels like looking at the photos their mothers have on the fireplace,” she said. “It was like no one spoke for her, so we had to speak for her.”
“The irony is that I was in two heads about [coming] because I didn’t know the area and was afraid to get home safe, but people on local Facebook groups were talking about going there so we could organize to go together.
A condolence book was opened on Saturday at the nearby OneSpace community center, near where Sabina’s body was found, and a walk in her memory was organized by the community for October 1.