Nahid al-Mane, a 31 year-old female student at the University of Essex, received 16 knife wounds to her head, neck and back on June 17 as she was going to the university.
Police believe that she may have been killed because of her “distinctive Islamic dress that would have identified her as likely being a Muslim”. The victim, who was walking along Salary Brook Trail, Colchester, was wearing a dark navy blue full length Abaya (long dress) and a patterned multi-coloured headscarf.
“We are conscious that the dress of the victim will have identified her as likely being a Muslim and this is one of the main lines of the investigation, but again there is no firm evidence at this time that she was targeted because of her religion,” said Detective Superintendent Tracy Hawkings.
A 52 year-old man was questioned by the police but then released.
Al-Mane, from Saudi Arabia, was enrolled in the Essex English Language Program and intended to pursue a Phd in life sciences. She has been described as “a quiet, considerate and well-respected” member of the community.
“On behalf of the entire University community, I express our deepest condolences to Nahid’s family and friends following this devastating loss. We are committed to ensuring that all our students and staff are being fully supported by the University,” said Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster.
A spokesperson from the Essex Police confirmed to The Muslim News they had no information of previous instances of Islamophobic attacks in the local area.
However, the stabbing is the second incident of knife murder in the area in under two months. Police have identified ‘obvious similarities’ between al-Mane’s murder and that of James Attfield, a “shy and polite man” who was stabbed 102 times last month. Police are treating the incidents as “separate but parallel inquiries”.
In response to the murder, President of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, Omar Ali, has called for action to be taken against a growing trend of Islamophobic crimes: “Sadly this is not the first attack on a Muslim student in the UK and I fear it may not be the last. While the motives behind this senseless crime are still under investigation, it seems very likely that this is another crime inspired by Islamophobic hatred, due to the victim’s visibly Muslim appearance.”
Members of the Islamic society of the University have called for new security measures to prevent further attacks, appealing for CCTV surveillance on Valley Road South Court, in the university itself and for cameras to be fixed on local buses.