The murder of Sabina Nessa

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28-year-old Sabina Nessa was an elementary school or primary school teacher as it would be referred to in London. She lived in an affordable southeast London neighborhood that housed young families & professionals. Only a year after she’d gotten her teaching degree,  & in September of 2019, Sabina had gotten her dream job, teaching five & six-year-old students in year one at Rushey Green Primary School in Catford.

She lived in a flat with a flatmate & she loved her home, often filling it with fresh flowers. Her flat was situated within walking distance to many pubs & restaurants, including The Depot bar near the Kidbrooke commuter rail station as well as sprawling Cator Park which was only a five minute walk from her flat. Sabina loved walking through the lush green space of the park, admiring the flowers & the beautiful homes that surrounded it. The area had a reputation as being safe though Sabina usually avoided walking through after dark. 

On Friday evening, September 17, 2021, Sabina left her flat at about 8:30 pm to meet a friend at The Depot which is a gastro pub that serves as one of the main watering holes in the area. She was running late & decided to take a shortcut through the park, despite her typical uneasiness at that time of night; it would have taken her five minutes to walk to the pub . Her friend, possibly a first date, sat, waiting at the pub & when Sabina didn’t arrive, she assumed she must have changed her plans that night. 

The next evening, about twenty four hours later, on Saturday, September 18th, a person was out, walking their dog through the park when they noticed a person laying on the ground. Initially they believed it was a drunk person in the long grass & began to speak to them, hoping to wake them until they realized the person was dead. The dog walker didn’t have their phone so they alerted a passerby who called the police who identified the body from an ID as Sabina Nessa. Her body wasn’t found sooner because it was not on a main walkway in the park

Police began their investigation by combing through CCTV footage from the area & by that evening, a man in his 40s was arrested on suspicion of murder though later released under police investigation. On Monday, the 20th, an autopsy was done & was initially said to be inconclusive. By that evening, Sabina’s name was released to the media. Sabina was described as a brilliant teacher who was kind & caring & absolutely dedicated to her students. She was the second of four sisters; exceptionally close to her older sister, Jebina Yasmin, who was only 11 months different in age. Their strong bond spanned from childhood to adulthood. Sabina was an amazing aunt to Jebina’s two little girls, often taking them shopping. 

Their family was from Bangladesh & Sabina often raised money to help the impoverished people in that area. They grew up in the rural area in the countryside of Bedfordshire in eastern England & were the only Asian family in the village though always felt accepted & welcome. 

When Jabina got married & moved to London, Sabina soon followed & enrolled at Greenwich University in southeast London. She graduated in 2014 & went on to the University of Bedfordshire to get her teaching degree. Jabina’s phone rang on Sunday morning, September 19th & she assumed it was her sister calling. Instead, it was their other sister & she was calling with the devastating news that Sabina was dead. At that time, the family had no details in regards to the cause or circumstances of her death.

Jabina felt that her world fell apart at that moment. She gathered her family & headed to their childhood home in Bedfordshire. On the way, she did a Google search & found information about a woman that had been found dead near Sabina’s home. Jabina made her husband pull the car over & continued  to shout, wondering if it was Sabina. She was unable to find any more details online at that moment. When they arrived at her parent’s house, they had to wait for over an hour for any more information, which felt like the longest hour of their lives. When the family learned of the horrific way in which Sabina was killed, their grief & devastation only intensified. 

On Thursday, September 23, the Metropolitan Police announced that they arrested a second man, this time a 38-year-old on suspicion of Sabina’s murder & was holding him in custody. 

The next day, on September 24th, a vigil was attended by more than 500 people at Pegler Square in Kidbrooke Village; Jebina broke down as she addressed the crowd, “we have lost an amazing, caring, beautiful sister who left this world far too early.” Multiple other vigils were held & many lit candles on their doorsteps to honor Sabina. That same day, police released CCTV footage of a balding man wearing gray jeans & a black jacket in Pegler Square, close to The Depot pub. They also asked for help in identifying a silver car that this person was thought to be driving. Two days later on the 26th at 3am, 36-year-old Koci Selamaj was arrested on suspicion of Sabina’s murder & the next day he was charged with murder. 

Police had combed through hundreds of hours of CCTV footage & found that Selamaj, an Albanian man, lay in wait in the park for thirty minutes before he targeted Sabina who was a complete stranger to him. CCTV footage captured the moment when he quickly overwhelmed Sabina, striking her over the head thirty four times before he carried her unconscious body away. He tried to hide her body under leaves in the grass. On December 16, 2021, Selamaj pleaded not guilty though “accepted responsibility for the killing.” On April 8, 2022, he pleaded guilty & was sentenced to life with a minimum of 36 years. He gave no explanation as to why he attacked & killed Sabina, only that he “simply accepts that he did.” 

Selamaj had come to Eastbourne, a seaside resort on England’s southern coast, illegally in 2015; he came from a small town outside the Albanian capital of Tirana. He held various odd jobs, working at a garage & delivering pizza for Domino’s. He married his Romanian wife on November 5, 2018 until they broke up in August of 2021 after reports of domestic abuse, specifically strangling her. His wife had UK immigration rights which granted Selamaj permission to also remain. 

Koci Selamaj & his estranged wife

That Friday, the day of the murder, he checked into the Grand Hotel where his wife worked & in the town where he lived; he became argumentative at the check-in desk so the staff called the police. An officer never responded to the scene though the operator was said to have handled the call properly. He later met his wife in the hotel car park & propositioned her with sex; when she refused, he was furious & drove the hour  and a half to Sabina’s neighborhood. Prosecutors said the attack was “predatory & premeditated” & carried out with extreme violence & may have been sexually motivated though there was no evidence of a sexual assault.

He used a 2 foot long metal traffic warning sign as the murder weapon & then drove home after hiding her body. The night of the attack, he drove his Nissan Micra to Sainsbury’s supermarket to buy a rolling pin, chili flakes & an energy drink. He decided not to use the rolling pin as his murder weapon & opted for the triangular traffic sign.  He entered the park at about 8pm & waited a half hour until he saw Sabina. He was seen loitering in various locations around the park, he then crossed paths with Sabina & he turned back as they walked past each other; at this point, she was described as “oblivious” that he was behind her. He ran up behind her, & began striking her repeatedly with the traffic sign.

Traffic triangle used to murder Sabina

He struck her with such force that the metal sign broke & carried her unconscious body away out of camera shot; Sabina was not seen alive again. Ten minutes later, he returned back into the view of the camera where he was seen picking up the pieces of the weapon that had broken on the ground & went back to the location of where Sabina’s body was, returning ten minutes later. He ripped off her tights, strangling her with them & partially covered her half nude body with leaves, before leaving her to die. The pathologist indicated that there was blunt force trauma to her head as well as asphyxiation, either which could have caused Sabina’s death.

Despite the area of the attack being a popular one, frequented by dog walkers & runners, no one saw the attack & there were still people out at that time of night. Sabina’s body laid close to the community center for many hours before she was discovered. 

Selamaj was then seen using wet wipes to clean a nearby bench. He then left in his car & stopped in the area of Tunbridge Wells in Kent where he disposed of the murder weapon in the River Teise. He then went back to the Grand Hotel at midnight. He was arrested at his home in Eastbourne on September 26th. He left no DNA at the scene of the crime though the murder weapon, the traffic sign, showed up as a fluorescent glint on cameras, going out of the park in a certain direction. 

The same person was seen entering the park & before that, driving a vehicle into Pegler Square & arriving in Kidbrooke at 7:41pm. The CCTV footage of the car was blurry & the registration number was unidentifiable though the investigation team was unable to conclude that it was a silver or beige Nissan Micra which was confirmed by Nissan in London, who narrowed down the year & type of car. 

The nearest automatic number-plate or ANPR camera that the driver would have had to have passed to get to Cator Park, was not working. Officers had to look at all vehicles fitting that description within a two-mile radius of the crime scene & more than sixty Nissan Micras ended up being eliminated. After police released images of Selamaj & his car, they received 170 different pieces of information from the public. 

When police discovered a car registered to Koci Selamaj, they were immediately suspicious. The car had been in the Eastbourne area for a full year before the murder until it had suddenly traveled to London for a four-hour period on the night of the murder & then back to Eastbourne in the hours after. After reviewing his phone, it also coincided with the journey that the car made that night. 

When he was arrested, police forced their way into his Eastbourne flat; he didn’t say anything, they found him laying on his bed & he was described as calm & compliant. Search of his flat found the clothing he was seen wearing on CCTV footage. They also found blood stained shoes & the DNA matched Sabina. He kept quiet during police interviews though when he was charged, he suddenly spoke up & said, “What will happen if I tell you everything?” Because he had been charged, detectives couldn’t question him further. He initially indicated that he would be pleading not guilty though later entered his formal plea as guilty, Sabina’s family present. He refused to come to court  for the sentencing & wasn’t present as Sabina’s family read their victim impact statements. Sabina’s family are sickened that he refused to say anything about the crime or answer any of their questions. Through it all, he’s been described as cold as ice & never showed an ounce of remorse. He was recently transferred from prison to Broadmoor high security hospital so his mental state can be assessed & he can begin his 36+ year  sentence. 

His own family members back in Albania are in a state of misery, according to the uncle of Selamaj, who added  that he’s astounded that his nephew was convicted of such a crime. He had last returned to his country the same month as the murder, staying for less than a week; coming home, he knew his marriage was ending & that his future in the UK was in jeopardy.  He arrived back in the UK on September 9th, murdering Sabina only 8 days later. 

Jebina felt haunted by the difference in media coverage between Sabina’s attack & murder in September & 33-year-old Sarah Everard’s murder in March in South London, six months earlier & only eight miles . We covered this case in episode 33; Sarah was walking home when a police officer, Wayne Couzens told her she had breached the COVID-19 guidelines. He placed her in his car, drove her to Dover where he raped & strangled her & then burned her body & disposed of her remains in a nearby pond. He ended up being sentenced to life in prison on September 30th after pleading guilty in July. The Muslim community did express outrage over Sabina’s murder & vigils were held though her death did not attract the same media attention. A quick search showed 1,346 British news reports on Sarah’s case in the three days following her death vs. only 104 for Sabina despite the similarities in their murders. Jebina feels that it must be because her sister wasn’t white. A total of 139 women were killed by men in Britain in 2021 though race & ethnicity was not published. 

Jabina hopes that some sort of change can happen from the devastation of her sister’s murder, hoping that one day, women can walk the streets alone & feel safe. Jaime Klinger, co-founder for the Reclaim These Streets movement organized one of the vigils & commented that she feels that the lives & safety of women isn’t given enough priority & that fines for littering are higher than harassing a woman on the street, a longer sentence is possible for stealing a dog than strangling a woman. 

Since Sabina’s death, more than 200 security alarms were distributed to women & vulnerable individuals in the area though many feel this sends a message that male violence is a woman’s problem rather than addressing the root cause. Bethan Bell, writer of the BBC explains the point that women are not attacked because of their route home or what they’re wearing; “If a woman is murdered by a man she doesn’t know, it’s because he wanted to murder her. There is no other reason.” 

In order to honor Sabina, her family plans to design a garden in her name where the children from her school can remember her by. Sabina loved nature & the outdoors & often encouraged her students to be outside, taking them to the schools’ “edible garden” where they grew fruits & vegetables. Teachers want the students to see the outdoors as a positive place vs. a scary one because of what happened to Sabina. The way in which Sabina died has been especially difficult for the students & staff; she was doing such an ordinary thing the night she was killed, walking through a park which children associate with fun. 


  1. Evening Standard: Sabina Nessa: CCTV ‘shows murdered teacher struck on head’ moments after leaving her flat
  2. National World: Koci Selamaj: who is Sabina Nessa killer, what is his country of origin, nationality, and how was he caught?
  3. Evening Standard: Sabina Nessa: Timeline of key events in investigation into teacher’s murder
  4. Aljazeera: Murdered  women: Sabina Nessa ‘a kind & generous soul’
  5. The Week: What happened to Sabina Nessa?
  6. Sky News: Sabina Nessa: Murdered school teacher ‘oblivious’ to killer behind her before being struck 34 times over the head in a London park
  7. BBC News: Sabina Nessa: Evil killer struck after marriage ended

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