Sabina Nessa: killer Koci Selamaj prison sentence for ‘savage’ murder, CCTV footage, family reaction explained

Koci Selamaj, who murdered Sabina Nessa as she made her way to meet a friend, refused to attend his own sentencing hearing

Sabina Nessa’s killer must serve at least 36 years for her “savage” murder and was called “cowardly” by a judge for refusing to attend the sentencing hearing.

Koci Selamaj’sentencing was taking place at the Old Bailey on Thursday after he previously admitted murdering the primary school teacher in a “predatory attack”.

Koci Selamaj was captured on CCTV walking in South London on the evening Sabina Nessa was attacked. He has now admitted murdering her.

In an emotional statement read to the court Ms Nessa’s parents asked her killer “how could you do such a thing?” and said he was “not a human being”.

Selamaj declined to attend his sentencing hearing on Thursday afternoon and Mr Justice Sweeney said it could go ahead in the absence as the court had no power to force him to attend.

The hearing continued on Friday and Selamaj was jailed for life with a minimum term of 36 years.

The 36-year-old drove to London from his home in Eastbourne on the south coast to carry out a pre-meditated attack on a woman with “extreme violence”.

The garage worker lurked around Cator Park in Kidbrooke, south-east, London, before targeting 28-year-old Ms Nessa as she passed through on her way to meet a friend on 17 September last year.

CCTV footage captured the moment Selamaj swiftly overwhelmed Ms Nessa by repeatedly striking her with a 2ft long weapon believed to be a traffic triangle, before carrying her away unconscious.

The body of Ms Nessa, who taught a year one class at Rushey Green Primary School in Catford, was found nearly 24 hours later covered with grass near a community centre in the park.

Sabina Nessa.

What did Sabina Nessa’s family say to her killer?

Sabina Nessa’s parents Abdur Rouf and Azibun Nessa said in a statement during the hearing: “As a parent you would never have thought that your child would die before you, not in a way our Sabina died.”

Addressing her killer, they said: “You had no right to take her away from us in such a cruel way.

“The moment the police officer came to our house and told her she was found dead our world shattered into pieces.

“How could you do such a thing to an innocent girl walking by, minding her own business. You are not a human being, you are an animal.”

They described Ms Nessa as kind, funny and determined with a love of animals.

Reading her statement, Sabina Nessa’s sister Jabina Islam called Selamaj a “coward” for not facing up to his crime in court.

She said: “Our sister Sabina Nessa was more than just a sister, a daughter, teacher - she was a life that mattered. A life that did not deserve to be taken in such a heinous and cowardly way

“You are an awful human being and do not deserve your name to be said. You are a disgusting animal.”

She said her sister was an “amazing role model” who was “powerful, fearless, bright and just an amazing soul”.

She described being haunted by images of what her sister went through in her last moments.

Members of the public attending a vigil in South London in September in memory of Sabina Nessa,

What did the judge say?

Mr Justice Sweeney set a minimum term of 36 years for the “savage” sexually motivated attack.

He said Ms Nessa was the “wholly blameless victim of an absolutely appalling murder which was entirely the fault of the defendant.”

Her death added to “the sense of insecurity” particularly felt by woman walking through the city at night.

“She had every right, as her family said, to be walking through the park all glammed up and out to enjoy herself after a long week at work.”

“The defendant robbed her and them of her life,” he said.

The judge noted the defendant’s guilty plea and lack of previous convictions.

But he added: “It is a striking feature of the defendant’s case that, clearly deliberately, it is not suggested by him that he had any remorse for what he did to Sabina Nessa.”

The judge said it was “cowardly” of him to refuse to attend his sentencing but said he had no power to force him.

What happened to Sabina Nessa?

Selamaj, from Eastbourne, East Sussex, was arrested in the seaside town and charged over her death days later.

At an Old Bailey hearing in February, Selamaj, an Albanian national, pleaded guilty to murder.

The court heard he had previously been violent towards his former partner, putting his hands around her throat in a strangling motion.

He entered Cator Park shortly after 8pm and lay in wait for half-an-hour before Ms Nessa arrived en route to The Depot bar where she was due to meet a friend.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said Ms Nessa had expressed concern about being in the park after dark but decided to use the cut through that night because she was running late.

On Thursday the court was shown footage of Ms Nessa who appeared “oblivious” as Selamaj ran up behind her and attacked her on the path near a park bench.

He hit her over the head 34 times with his weapon, which broke apart as he rendered Ms Nessa unconscious. Selamaj then dragged her up a slope and out of view for 10 minutes.

Ms Morgan said the defendant asphyxiated her and removed her tights and underwear before trying to cover her body in grass. He returned to Ms Nessa’s body for another 10 minutes. Selamaj used wet wipes to clean the park bench before leaving the park.

On his way back to Eastbourne, Selamaj disposed of the emergency triangle in the River Teise in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

Ms Morgan invited the court to conclude there was a sexual motive for the killing, even though there was no “positive” evidence of a sexual assault.

The court was shown CCTV footage of Selamaj in Sainsbury’s buying items including a rolling pin, which was later recovered from the wheel well of the boot of his car.

Ms Morgan said he had picked up the rolling pin and gone back to his car when he realised a “better weapon” was an emergency triangle.

Phone data and traffic cameras captured the defendant returning to Eastbourne, arriving at the £170-a-night Grand Hotel just after midnight.

He checked out in the morning and went to work at an Esso garage in Lewes.

Selamaj was arrested on 26 September last year and trainers with Sabina Nessa’s blood on them were seized from his home.

He refused to comment in police interviews but when he was charged, the Albanian national said: “What will happen if I open up now and say everything.”

Koci Selamaj.

What has the CPS said?

Helen Ellwood, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said after Selamaj admitted to the murder: “Sabina Nessa was 28 years old when her life was cut short as a result of truly evil violence inflicted on her as she walked through a park.

“Koci Selamaj has shown little remorse for his premeditated and predatory attack on a lone woman who was a stranger to him.

“His cowardly actions have devastated a family and caused immeasurable pain to all those who knew and loved Sabina.

“The prosecution was able to build the strongest possible case resulting in Selamaj admitting his guilt as a result of meticulous investigation led by the Metropolitan Police, which included an extensive review of CCTV footage and detailed forensic work.”

She said the CPS was committed to prosecuting violence against women and girls, and she hoped the conviction would bring some sense of justice to Ms Nessa’s family and friends.

Supporters from the Sabina Project outside the Old Bailey, central London, ahead of the sentencing Koci Selamaj.