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Sabina Nessa: Evil killer struck after marriage ended Sabina Nessa: Evil killer struck after marriage ended
(about 2 hours later)
A garden in Sabina Nessa's memory is planned for the primary school where she taughtA garden in Sabina Nessa's memory is planned for the primary school where she taught
In the months before he beat and strangled Sabina Nessa, Koci Selamaj had unleashed his violent personality behind closed doors.In the months before he beat and strangled Sabina Nessa, Koci Selamaj had unleashed his violent personality behind closed doors.
Yet his Romanian wife, who was the victim of his violence, was also the key to his long-term life in the UK. The collapse of his marriage came shortly before he brutally murdered 28-year-old teacher Sabina.Yet his Romanian wife, who was the victim of his violence, was also the key to his long-term life in the UK. The collapse of his marriage came shortly before he brutally murdered 28-year-old teacher Sabina.
Selamaj has now been sentenced for her murder - but questions linger about the Albanian's immigration history and whether he married so he could stay in the UK.Selamaj has now been sentenced for her murder - but questions linger about the Albanian's immigration history and whether he married so he could stay in the UK.
Man jailed for murdering teacher Sabina NessaMan jailed for murdering teacher Sabina Nessa
'Cultural shift' needed to tackle male violence'Cultural shift' needed to tackle male violence
The Home Office says at the time of the murder, Selamaj had the right to be in the UK but officials refused to give details. However, it has emerged that he entered illegally in 2015, arriving on a lorry after living in Greece. He based himself in Eastbourne, east Sussex, working as a pizza delivery driver and garage attendant. He married his wife on 5 November 2018 and they lived in a flat behind a row shops in Eastbourne. The Home Office says at the time of the murder, Selamaj had the right to be in the UK but officials have refused to give details. However, it has emerged that he entered illegally in 2015, arriving on a lorry after living in Greece. He based himself in Eastbourne, east Sussex, working as a pizza delivery driver and garage attendant. He married his wife on 5 November 2018 and they lived in a flat behind a row shops in Eastbourne.
As an EU citizen, his wife had greater UK immigration rights. Earlier that year, the UK government had announced the EU Settlement Scheme which gave EU nationals and - crucially for Selamaj - their spouses, permission to remain here after Brexit.As an EU citizen, his wife had greater UK immigration rights. Earlier that year, the UK government had announced the EU Settlement Scheme which gave EU nationals and - crucially for Selamaj - their spouses, permission to remain here after Brexit.
Domestic violenceDomestic violence
With his position in the UK secure, Selamaj now had the freedom to travel in and out of the country.With his position in the UK secure, Selamaj now had the freedom to travel in and out of the country.
In the Albanian capital Tirana, the BBC has seen police documents showing Selamaj had no criminal record there. They also detail his regular return visits to his home country - beginning two months after his wedding. He went back six times in two and a half years.In the Albanian capital Tirana, the BBC has seen police documents showing Selamaj had no criminal record there. They also detail his regular return visits to his home country - beginning two months after his wedding. He went back six times in two and a half years.
Koci Selamaj had no previous convictions but the prosecution described how, more than once, he had put his hands round his wife's throatKoci Selamaj had no previous convictions but the prosecution described how, more than once, he had put his hands round his wife's throat
But by the summer of 2021, Selamaj's marriage had broken down because of his violent behaviour. His wife moved out of their home.But by the summer of 2021, Selamaj's marriage had broken down because of his violent behaviour. His wife moved out of their home.
The prosecution at the Old Bailey described how more than once he put his hands around her throat - a precursor to how he killed Sabina Nessa. His wife, who we are not naming, worked at Eastbourne's Grand Hotel and on 17 September - the day of Sabina's murder - Selamaj booked a room there.The prosecution at the Old Bailey described how more than once he put his hands around her throat - a precursor to how he killed Sabina Nessa. His wife, who we are not naming, worked at Eastbourne's Grand Hotel and on 17 September - the day of Sabina's murder - Selamaj booked a room there.
When Selamaj became argumentative at the check-in desk, staff noticed his home address was close by and called 101. No officer was sent, although police say the operator dealt with the call correctly.When Selamaj became argumentative at the check-in desk, staff noticed his home address was close by and called 101. No officer was sent, although police say the operator dealt with the call correctly.
Selamaj later met his wife in his car in the hotel car park where he asked her to have sex with him. She rejected him and Selamaj drove off alone.Selamaj later met his wife in his car in the hotel car park where he asked her to have sex with him. She rejected him and Selamaj drove off alone.
Sexually motivatedSexually motivated
He first drove to Brighton and then travelled to south-east London, parking in Pegler Square, in Kidbrooke. He had no connection with this suburban area with its new build blocks of flats, miles from where he lived. CCTV captured him buying a rolling pin at the local Sainsbury's, which he apparently considered using as a weapon.He first drove to Brighton and then travelled to south-east London, parking in Pegler Square, in Kidbrooke. He had no connection with this suburban area with its new build blocks of flats, miles from where he lived. CCTV captured him buying a rolling pin at the local Sainsbury's, which he apparently considered using as a weapon.
Meanwhile, at the end of a working week, Sabina Nessa, who lived locally, was on her way to meet a friend for a Friday night out. In the past she had discussed with friends the importance of sticking to the main road but on that evening she was running late. She took a shortcut through Cator Park, close to Pegler Square.Meanwhile, at the end of a working week, Sabina Nessa, who lived locally, was on her way to meet a friend for a Friday night out. In the past she had discussed with friends the importance of sticking to the main road but on that evening she was running late. She took a shortcut through Cator Park, close to Pegler Square.
CCTV footage later revealed how Selamaj, who had been loitering in the park, spotted Sabina, checked she was alone and ran towards her. He struck her 34 times with a metal traffic triangle, carried her off unconscious and strangled her. Sabina's body, covered in grass, was discovered the following day by a dog walker.CCTV footage later revealed how Selamaj, who had been loitering in the park, spotted Sabina, checked she was alone and ran towards her. He struck her 34 times with a metal traffic triangle, carried her off unconscious and strangled her. Sabina's body, covered in grass, was discovered the following day by a dog walker.
"The way he had left Sabina's body, together with the fact that he had propositioned his wife for sex earlier in the day, says to me without a shadow of a doubt that it was a sexually motivated killing," says Det Ch Insp Neil John, who led the Metropolitan Police murder investigation."The way he had left Sabina's body, together with the fact that he had propositioned his wife for sex earlier in the day, says to me without a shadow of a doubt that it was a sexually motivated killing," says Det Ch Insp Neil John, who led the Metropolitan Police murder investigation.
Vigils were held for Ms Nessa after her death, including this one in EastbourneVigils were held for Ms Nessa after her death, including this one in Eastbourne
Selamaj then drove back to Eastbourne, stopping on the way in Tunbridge Wells, in Kent, to dump the murder weapon in a river. Just after midnight he strode through the lobby of Eastbourne's Grand Hotel and made his way to the room he had booked earlier.Selamaj then drove back to Eastbourne, stopping on the way in Tunbridge Wells, in Kent, to dump the murder weapon in a river. Just after midnight he strode through the lobby of Eastbourne's Grand Hotel and made his way to the room he had booked earlier.
Frustratingly for detectives, Selamaj left no forensic evidence at the scene. However, his murder weapon, the metal traffic triangle, gave them a vital clue. "On the cameras we could see that fluorescent glint going out of the park in a certain direction," said DCI John. "That was the breakthrough. It all followed from that."Frustratingly for detectives, Selamaj left no forensic evidence at the scene. However, his murder weapon, the metal traffic triangle, gave them a vital clue. "On the cameras we could see that fluorescent glint going out of the park in a certain direction," said DCI John. "That was the breakthrough. It all followed from that."
Working around the clock, going through footage from local cameras, the murder team began closing in on the killer. After five days of studying the footage, they worked out what they thought he looked like and what he was wearing."Working around the clock, going through footage from local cameras, the murder team began closing in on the killer. After five days of studying the footage, they worked out what they thought he looked like and what he was wearing."
That was really good going by the team," says DCI John. "We had literally hundreds of hours of CCTV in the office."That was really good going by the team," says DCI John. "We had literally hundreds of hours of CCTV in the office."
'Evil coward''Evil coward'
The registration plate of his silver Nissan Micra had picked up by roadside cameras. A week after Sabina's body was found, police identified Selamaj as the prime suspect.The registration plate of his silver Nissan Micra had picked up by roadside cameras. A week after Sabina's body was found, police identified Selamaj as the prime suspect.
Overnight, police forced the door of Selamaj's Eastbourne flat and arrested him. He didn't say anything. He was lying on the bed and was described as calm and compliant. The search team found his trainers. Blood on them was analysed and linked him to Sabina.Overnight, police forced the door of Selamaj's Eastbourne flat and arrested him. He didn't say anything. He was lying on the bed and was described as calm and compliant. The search team found his trainers. Blood on them was analysed and linked him to Sabina.
Selamaj's silence continued during police interviews. But when he was charged he suddenly asked: "What will happen if I tell you everything?" Because he had been charged, detectives could not probe him further.Selamaj's silence continued during police interviews. But when he was charged he suddenly asked: "What will happen if I tell you everything?" Because he had been charged, detectives could not probe him further.
At his first court appearance he indicated he would be pleading not guilty. But in February, at the Old Bailey and with Sabina's family watching, he was asked to enter a formal plea. There was a pause as a packed courtroom waited. Selamaj broke the silence with the word: "Guilty".At his first court appearance he indicated he would be pleading not guilty. But in February, at the Old Bailey and with Sabina's family watching, he was asked to enter a formal plea. There was a pause as a packed courtroom waited. Selamaj broke the silence with the word: "Guilty".
"He is an evil coward," added DCI John, who also described him as "an unknown quantity" because of his refusal to engage with police and the fact that he has no criminal record."He is an evil coward," added DCI John, who also described him as "an unknown quantity" because of his refusal to engage with police and the fact that he has no criminal record.
Selamaj refused to come to court for the sentencing and so Sabina's family faced an empty dock with their victim impact statements.Selamaj refused to come to court for the sentencing and so Sabina's family faced an empty dock with their victim impact statements.
Koci Selamaj's parents are in a state of misery, his uncle Bardhosh told the BBCKoci Selamaj's parents are in a state of misery, his uncle Bardhosh told the BBC
Thousands of miles away in the maritime village of Borsh, in southern Albania, Bardhosh Selamaj told the BBC he was astounded his nephew was now a convicted murderer in the UK.Thousands of miles away in the maritime village of Borsh, in southern Albania, Bardhosh Selamaj told the BBC he was astounded his nephew was now a convicted murderer in the UK.
He said Selamaj - his brother's son - was born in the Albanian city of Elbasan, before the family moved to neighbouring Greece. While Selamaj's parents returned to Albania, he and his siblings remained, thinking their prospects were better there.He said Selamaj - his brother's son - was born in the Albanian city of Elbasan, before the family moved to neighbouring Greece. While Selamaj's parents returned to Albania, he and his siblings remained, thinking their prospects were better there.
As for Selamaj's retired parents, Bardhosh reflects: "We are poor and we had high hopes for them and their family. Now they don't know what to say or do. They are in a state of misery."As for Selamaj's retired parents, Bardhosh reflects: "We are poor and we had high hopes for them and their family. Now they don't know what to say or do. They are in a state of misery."
Selamaj's last trip to his home country was in September last year. He stayed for just under a week and on 9 September boarded a budget flight back to Luton.Selamaj's last trip to his home country was in September last year. He stayed for just under a week and on 9 September boarded a budget flight back to Luton.
By then his marriage looked to be over. He knew this meant his future in the UK was in jeopardy. Eight days later he had brutally murdered Sabina Nessa.By then his marriage looked to be over. He knew this meant his future in the UK was in jeopardy. Eight days later he had brutally murdered Sabina Nessa.
Sabina's elder sister, Jebina Islam, says the family are angry at Selamaj's refusal to say anything about his crime.Sabina's elder sister, Jebina Islam, says the family are angry at Selamaj's refusal to say anything about his crime.
Sabina was the second of four sisters. "When I saw him I was just thinking what a horrible vile animal he is. I'm upset that he wouldn't answer any questions," says Jebina.Sabina was the second of four sisters. "When I saw him I was just thinking what a horrible vile animal he is. I'm upset that he wouldn't answer any questions," says Jebina.
"That will stay with me for the rest of my life. Why did he carry out such a horrific attack on my sister?""That will stay with me for the rest of my life. Why did he carry out such a horrific attack on my sister?"
Jebina Islam is angry that Selamaj refuses to say why he attacked her sisterJebina Islam is angry that Selamaj refuses to say why he attacked her sister