A sexual predator has been handed a life sentence behind bars for murdering primary school teacher Sabina Nessa.
Koci Selamaj, from Eastbourne, East Sussex, pleaded guilty to murdering the 28-year-old primary school teacher in a sex attack in a park in September last year.
The killer refused to attend sentencing proceedings in court yesterday and today, with Mr Justice Sweeney calling this decision “cowardly” – a video link was made available to him, but he turned it down.
He will serve at least 36 years behind bars before being considered for release.
His defense barrister said the killer has been moved to Broadmoor to be assessed.
Sabina Nessa’s killer Koci Selamaj sentenced to life in prison with Mr Justice Sweeney ordering him to serve a minimum of 36 years, saying he “may never be released”.
As he was sentenced today Mr Justice Sweeney called Sabina Nessa the “wholly blameless victim of an absolutely appalling murder”.
He said she was “savagely beaten unconscious” before being “dragged off the beaten track” and strangled to death by a “complete stranger” in a “predatory attack”.
The judged added a life sentence was “inevitable” with a starting point for a minimum term of 30 years.
Mr Justice Sweeney added he believes Selamaj gained sexual pleasure from murdering Sabina.
On September 17, 2021, Selamaj drove to London from his home in Eastbourne on the south coast to carry out a premeditated attack on a woman with “extreme violence”.
The garage worker lurked around Cator Park in Kidbrooke, south-east London, before targeting an unsuspecting Sabina as she passed through on her way to meet a friend.
Ms Morgan QC said: “It was out of character for Sabina Nessa to walk through Cator Park after dark.
“She had in fact discussed that very issue with her flatmate, being concerned about being in the park after dark.
“It seems likely that she chose to walk across the park that night because as the messages show, she was in fact running later to her meeting, and that was the quickest route to get to The Depot bar from her address.”
Det Chief Insp Neil John told reporters: “It’s quite poignant and sad that as her friends had said she had spoken previously that she avoided that route.
“Due to running late, we surmise that she had taken a shortcut and gone through the path.”
Horrifying CCTV footage captured the moment Selamaj savagely attacked Sabina, striking her over her head 34 times with a two-foot-long metal traffic triangle, before he carried her away unconscious.
Selamaj, who was unknown to the victim, then removed Sabina’s clothes and strangled her before covering her body in grass.
The body of the year one class teacher, who worked at Rushey Green Primary School in Catford, was discovered 24 hours later near a community center in the park.
The 36-year-old admitted a charge of murder at the Old Bailey on February 25 and he was sentenced today.
At an earlier hearing, prosecutor Alison Morgan QC suggested 30 years would be an appropriate starting point considering the sexually motivated and sadistic nature of the crime.
She said: “The circumstances in which Ms Nessa’s body was found demonstrated the sexual motivation that must have existed – the positioning of her legs, the exposure of parts of her body and the removal of her underwear and tights.”
Ms Morgan QC added the killing was further aggravated as it involved targeting a lone woman at night amid heightened concerns for the safety of women after Sarah Everard’s brutal murder six months before.
The prosecutor added the crime was “premeditated” with Selamaj being violent towards his ex-partner, having put his hands around her neck in a strangling motion a number of times.
In a victim impact statement, the Nessa family described the killer as “an animal”.
They said: “You had no right to take her away from us in such a cruel way.
“The moment a police officer our world shattered into tiny pieces, and these pieces cannot be put back together.
“You are not a human being, you are an animal.”
Her sister later paid tribute, describing Sabrina as “powerful, fearless and bright.”
Selamaj murdered the primary school teacher just weeks after his wife left him due to his domestic abuse, including “throttling” her at least three times.
His demeanor caused her to become fearful for her life and she decided to leave the defendant, according to Ms Morgan QC.
He tried to persuade her to have sex with him just hours before the attack and after being rejected he hit Sabina 34 times with a steel traffic triangle.
Three days before the horrific crime, Selamaj booked a room at the five-star Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, the town where he already had accommodation.
On September 17, he booked into the hotel and, two hours before the murder, contacted his former partner in a failed bid to engage her in sexual activity.
Selamaj’s Nissan Micra was tracked by ANPR cameras and cell site evidence traveling to London.
He used his bank card to purchase a rolling pin, although this was never used as a weapon.
He also bought a bag for life and chilli powder.
The CPS say: “But then went back to the vehicle and the rolling pin was recovered from from the wheel well of the boot of his car, which is precisely where you’d expect the weapon.
“He had picked up the rolling pin, gone back to his car and realized that a better weapon was this emergency triangle.”
The killer was seen entering Cator Park shortly after 8pm where he remained waiting for half and hour before Sabina arrived on her way to The Depot bar where she was due to meet her friend.
Ms Morgan QC said: “”The defendant is seen in effect loitering in locations around the park before spotting the deceased, checking to see if anyone else was nearby before turning and running after her.
“He is then seen to move towards the deceased and striking her repeatedly using a weapon which was approximately 2ft in length.
“The CCTV footage shows the defendant then carrying the deceased, who appeared to be unconscious by that point, up a bank and effectively out of sight.”
The prosecutor said Selamaj incapacitated Sabina delivering 34 blows to her head before dragging her unconscious body out of camera shot.
She said: “The male did appear after 10 minutes.
“He is seen to pick up pieces of the weapon that had broken on the ground and then moved back to the area the deceased was located for another 10 minutes.”
After the brutal attack and murder, Selamaj traveled back to the south coast, stopping at an area of Tunbridge Wells in Kent to dispose of the emergency triangle in the River Teise.
I have arrived back at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, where his wife worked, just after midnight.
Staff raised the alarm with police, phoning 101, when he booked in hours before the murder.
Detective Sergeant Mark Johnson said “They were a bit uneasy about him. They knew he lived close by so there was something not quite right about him.”
Police trawled through hours of CCTV and arrested Selamaj at his home on September 26, nine days after Sabina’s death.
In police interview, he made no comment except to deny the murder when directly asked if he was responsible for killing Sabina.
In December, a defense lawyer said Selamaj accepted he was the person on CCTV and admitted to hitting Sabina several times.
But at that time he still denied the murder.
Speaking in court, Sabina’s family broke down in tears, heartbroken at her loss.
Sabina’s parents Abdur Rouf and Azibun Nessa said in a statement: “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.”
Her sister Jebina Islam said: “We as a family are broken and there is not a day that goes by that we do not think of her.
“The fact we will never know the motive for why he killed our sister is not only frustrating but heart-breaking.”
Sabina’s sister Jakia Nassia said: “Putting words into how I feel isn’t simple.
“The pain I’ve been feeling since the day I found out about my sister will never leave me….It’s a sinking feeling that doesn’t stop.
“This is the worst time of my life and without my sister back it’s never going to get better.”
Mr John said one of the biggest gaps in their knowledge was his motive, which has “deeply frustrated the family”.
When asked if it was potentially an act of revenge on women for his wife leaving him, detectives said they could not be sure
Mr John said: “When he was cautioned, he said, ‘what would happen if I open up now’.
“That is the only thing that he has said to the police all throughout the investigation.
“This was a pre-meditated sexually motivated murder.”
Adam Gerrard/Daily Mirror)
Paying tribute to Sabina, Mr John said: “Sabina was just 28 years old when her life was cruelly taken away.
“She was a sister, daughter, aunt. She was a teacher loved by her pupils and a friend to many.
“She was a teacher loved by her pupils and a friend to many. Her family described her as fun, determined and kind.
“I don’t want to waste too many words on Selamaj. He is an evil coward who cruelly took away the bright future of a young woman and has never given any explanation for his actions.
“We are pleased that Selamaj will now spend the majority of his life in prison, unable to cause this kind of pain and heartache to any other families. We also know that thankfully, cases like this are incredibly rare.
“But we are not naïve. Right across the Met, we know that there is more to do when it comes to tackling violence against women and girls.
“Women and girls have the right to feel safe at any time, day or night, in public or at home. Sabina had every right to feel safe walking through Cator Park.
“It is for her, and for all those who have lost their lives at the hands of violent offenders, that we will continue our relentless effort to identify those who carry out these crimes and bring them to justice.”