A sexual predator who stalked and murdered law graduate Zara Aleena has won an appeal to reduce the minimum term of his life sentence.
Jordan McSweeney, 29, stalked at least five women before he targeted 35-year-old Ms Aleena in Ilford, east London, as she walked home after spending an evening with friends in the early hours of 26 June last year.
McSweeney dragged her into a driveway before brutally kicking her and stamping on her.
He then sexually assaulted Ms Aleena and left her for dead in an attack that lasted nine minutes and left her with 46 separate injuries resulting in her death after she was rushed to hospital.
McSweeney, who refused to attend his sentencing hearing, was handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 38 years in December at the Old Bailey after admitting Ms Aleena’s murder and sexual assault.
Image: Jordan McSweeney pleaded guilty to murdering Ms Aleena In a ruling on Friday, three judges at the Court of Appeal in London found the sentencing judge had imposed too high an “uplift” to the minimum term, replacing it with a life sentence with a minimum term of 33 years.
The Lady Chief Justice Lady Carr said: “Having correctly found that Ms Aleena must have been rendered unconscious at an early stage in the attack, the judge had lacked a sufficient evidential basis on which to be sure that there had been additional mental or physical suffering such as to justify an increase in the 30-year starting point.”
McSweeney appeared at his appeal hearing last month by videolink from Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire.
His barrister George Carter-Stephenson KC said it was “accepted that the attack and murder in this case was particularly savage and brutal”.
But he said that although there was a “sexual motive” to the crime the murder was not premeditated.
“The attack was an opportunistic act rather than anything that was planned in advance, though there was clearly a sexual encounter in mind,” he said.
“He planned to look for a sexual encounter, with or without consent.”
Image: Zara Aleena’s murder led to more calls to end violence against women and girls
Image: Protesters outside the Old Bailey at McSweeney’s sentencing Oliver Glasgow KC, representing the Crown Prosecution Service, told the court McSweeney had spent two hours stalking women before focusing on Ms Aleena.
“The sexual assault of Ms Aleena was the culmination of hours of planning and premeditation,” he said in written submissions.
Ms Aleena’s murder led to more calls to end violence against women and girls.
McSweeney was known to police as a serial offender and had 28 previous convictions for 69 offences, including burglary and assault.
He was released from prison just nine days before the murder and in that time his licence was revoked after he failed to attend any meetings with probation workers.
A damning report found a catalogue of errors in the Probation Service’s handling of McSweeney, which meant he was not treated as a high-risk offender and was “free” to commit this “most heinous crime”.