The parents of murdered teacher Sabina Nessa have called her killer an “animal” who had “no right to touch her”.
Koci Selamaj, 36, was branded a “coward” by the grieving family after refusing to attend the first day of his sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey.
He has pleaded guilty to murder but did not answer questions during police interviews or mount any defense explaining his actions.
Mr Justice Sweeney said a life sentence was “inevitable” for the brutal killing, where Selamaj attacked Ms Nessa from behind as she walked through a park in Kidbrooke, south-east London.
Ms Nessa’s relatives left the room as the court was played CCTV footage of the prolonged attack on 17 September last year, where Selamaj used a metal warning triangle from his car as a weapon.
The murderer left his victim’s body in Cator Park, partly covered in grass. Ms Nessa was found the following day by a dog walker.
In a statement read to the court, Ms Nessa’s parents, Abdur Rouf and Azibun Nessa, said their world was “shattered into tiny pieces” the moment a police officer came to the door.
Addressing Selamaj, they condemn his refusal to answer questions or give evidence, adding: “You are not a human being, you are an animal … how could you do such a thing?”
“You had no right to take our daughter’s life away and no right to touch her,” the statement added. “Not knowing why you carried out this murder will remain on our minds.”
The parents said they had struggled sleeping and were plagued by thoughts of their daughter’s violent last moments, when she must have been “scared” and alone.
Ms Nessa’s sisters, Jabina Islam and Sadia Ness, read their joint statement in court, stopping at points as they broke down in tears and comforted each other.
“We have been told that Sabina was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but she wasn’t,” Ms Islam said. “She had every right to be walking down that path.”
The court heard that Ms Nessa, 28, was murdered shortly after 8.30pm as she walked a short distance from her home to meet a friend at a local bar.
“You are an awful human being and you don’t deserve your name to be said,” Ms Islam told her murderer.
“From a young age our parents tell us to be careful when going out, always be together with someone, to text when we’re home.
“We all thought they were paranoid and being too protective. They weren’t, the worst came true. How can we convince our parents that we are safe in this world?”
Ms Nessa’s sisters described the pain of telling their children that their “auntie is no more”, and how she would miss all the landmarks in their lives.
Lisa Williams, the headteacher of Rushey Green Primary School, said children and staff had been left “distraught and distressed” by the murder.
“Sabina had a lifelong career ahead of her which was taken away through this senseless murder,” she added. “The school has lost an incredibly talented teacher, and the teaching profession lost an inspiring individual destined to have a lasting impact on so many young lives.”
The court heard that Selamaj drove from his hometown of Eastbourne to Kidbrooke on the evening of the murder, after unsuccessfully “trawling” Brighton for a potential sexual encounter.
Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said the “circumstances indicate that he must have planned to commit an attack that night”.
She told the court that Selamaj went to a local Sainsbury’s and purchased a rolling pin, before realizing that the metal warning triangle from his car boot was “a better weapon” and taking it into the park.
“The offense was planned over a few days,” Ms Morgan said. “On the day of the attack, the defendant demonstrated his sexual motivation for her by his unsuccessful attempts to get his former partner to engage in sexual activity with him.
“Having failed, the defendant then traveled to an area where he knew he would not be known and where he assumed he would not be detected in order to commit the attack. He sought out a vulnerable, lone female at night, before returning swiftly back to Eastbourne, disposing of the murder weapon along the route back.”
The court heard that there was “no definitive pathological evidence” of a sexual assault, but that it could not be ruled out.
Selamaj, who was born in Albania and moved to the UK in 2017, was not previously known to police and had no cautions or convictions.
Following the murder, his wife told officers that she had been the victim of domestic violence, including throttling, and she had fled their home in fear for her life.
Defense barrister Lewis Power QC said Selamaj had refused to attend the hearing in person or via video link.
He told the court he had spared Ms Nessa’s family the “ghastly ordeal of a trial” by pleading guilty to murder, and that a whole-life order was not warranted in the case.
Asked by the judge whether he had given any reason for his actions, Mr Power said there was “simply no answer”.
“I am not able to put forward a defense or partial defense,” he added. “He simply accepts that he did it… I can’t assist the court.”
Mr Justice Sweeney adjourned the sentencing hearing until Friday morning.