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Murdered aspiring lawyer Zara Aleena, 35 ‘was STALKED before being ambushed from behind

An aspiring lawyer who was murdered by a stranger just yards from her front door was stalked and ambushed from behind.

"Bubbly" Zara Aleena, 35, was attacked by a man who "came at her from the back" in the early hours of Sunday morning.

A cordon remains in place at the scene, close to Valentines Park

Zara was walking home from a night out in Ilford, East London, when she was killed.

The attack has been likened to the tragic murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa.

Cops have arrested a 29-year-old man on suspicion of Zara's murder.

A neighbour - who lives opposite the attack and provided CCTV to cops - told the Times: "The guy came from the back, he was following her.

"It happened on the main road. He punched her a few times."

Cops don't believe any weapons were used in the attack.

Zara's friend Nadia, 42, said the aspiring lawyer decided to walk home because she was so nearby.

"She just decided to walk home because it was close by. Nothing like that has ever happened here.

"She wanted to borrow some heels and some mascara from me that night, but I couldn't answer my phone as I was busy.

"She was a gentle soul, she wouldn't hurt a fly. She just passed her law degree and was working in central London.

"She wanted to become a lawyer so she could provide for herself and her family."

Zara's family have now told of their devastation.

A cousin, who asked not to be named, told the Daily Mail that she had been working at the Royal Courts of Justice as an administration officer while searching for a job as a trainee solicitor.

"She was a lovely person," he said.

"It's such a shock for the family."

He called the law graduate "bubbly" and said she "brought life to the room".

Another friend said Ms Aleena's parents are too devastated to speak.

Cops say she was attacked on Cranbrook Road as she walked in the direction of Gants Hill Station.

Police and paramedics were called to the scene at 2.44am.

Met Police Chief Superintendent Stuart Bell said: "Zara, who lived locally, was walking along Cranbrook Road in the direction of Gants Hill Station when she was assaulted.

"It is now believed that she was the victim of an attack by a stranger.

"Her family are aware of this and as the investigation progresses they will continue to be updated and supported.

"A special post mortem has been completed. Zara suffered multiple serious injuries that contributed to her death.

"There is no evidence at this time that weapons were used during the attack."

Chief Superintendent Bell, who leads the Met's East Area basic command unit, added: "We are keeping Zara's family up to date with our progress.

"My heartfelt condolences are with them at this terrible time."

The force is urging anyone who was in the Cranbrook Road area of Ilford between 2am and 3am on Sunday to contact them.

One neighbour said: "I came home about that time. We had just been to an Ed Sheeran concert.

"I heard screaming but I didn't know whether it was a child or a fox.

"I didn't think much of it.

"It's a shock because it at 2am it was still busy with lots of cars."

Subhash, 60, who lives just off Cranbrook Road, said he was woken up by a helicopter at around 3am.

"It worries me a little bit that something like that is happening on my doorstep," he said.

"It's not just my daughter. It's other daughters, other girls, other women in the area."