Takeaway driver will deny murder of teacher Sabina Nessa, court told

Koci Selamaj appeared at Willesden Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

Sabina Nessa death
Sabina Nessa death

A takeaway delivery driver will deny murdering primary school teacher Sabina Nessa, a court has heard.

Koci Selamaj, 36, was remanded in custody ahead of an appearance at the Old Bailey on Thursday.

Selamaj’s lawyer Aidan Harvey indicated a not-guilty plea to a charge of murdering Ms Nessa, 28, at Willesden Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

She was allegedly attacked as she walked through Cator Park in Kidbrooke, south-east London, on her way to meet a friend on September 17.

A sketch of Koci Selamaj
A sketch of Koci Selamaj (right) appearing in the dock at Willesden Magistrates’ Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

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

Selamaj, who is understood to have been working as a food delivery driver in Eastbourne, but is originally from Albania, appeared calm as he stood in the glass dock, wearing a grey prison-issue tracksuit and blue facemask.

Accompanied by two guards, he did not remove his mask, speaking only to confirm his name, address and date of birth during the hearing, which lasted for about two minutes in front of a packed press bench and public gallery.

Prosecutor Umaima Peracha said: “The charge against the defendant is that of murder at a park in Kidbrooke.

“This is an indictable only offence, and I would ask you to send this to the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey).”

Sabina Nessa death
Floral tributes at Cator Park in Kidbrooke, south London (Ian West/PA)

Selamaj was not asked to formally enter a plea to a single charge of murder, which states: “On September 17 2021 at Cator Park, Greenwich, London you murdered Miss Sabina Nessa contrary to common law.”

But asked by District Judge Denis Brennan for an indication of his plea, Selamaj’s lawyer Aidan Harvey, said: “I have indicated on the form it will be a not-guilty plea.”

Mr Harvey earlier told the court that although an Albanian interpreter was in the building, his client’s English was “sufficient for today’s purposes”.

The judge told Selamaj: “We will of course have an interpreter booked for you at the Crown Court but today I send you to the Central Criminal Court.

Sabina Nessa death
Police tape in Cator Park (Ian West/PA)

“Your first hearing there will be, in fact, a bail hearing on September 30 with the plea and trial preparation hearing being on October 26.”

He added: “I will remand you in custody until that appearance on September 30 at the Central Criminal Court.”

Selamaj, from Eastbourne, East Sussex, was arrested in the seaside town in the early hours of Sunday and charged on Monday.

A light-coloured Nissan Micra was seized in a leafy residential street about half a mile away.

Sabina Nessa death
A vigil was held in memory of Sabina Nessa (Jonathan Brady/PA)

On Friday, hundreds of people gathered for a candlelit vigil organised in Pegler Square, Kidbrooke, in memory of Ms Nessa.

Jebina Yasmin Islam, Ms Nessa’s sister, broke down as she addressed the crowd.

She said: “Words cannot describe how we are feeling, this feels like we are stuck in a bad dream and can’t get out of it – our world is shattered, we are simply lost for words.

“No family should go through what we are going through.”

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