Debates sparked by Gabby Petito case echo in 28-year-old London teacher’s killing

·Senior Writer
·4-min read

The killing of Sabina Nessa, a 28-year-old London teacher who police believe was murdered on a five-minute walk from her house to a pub last Friday, has sparked a renewed outcry over violence against women in the U.K., while also putting a spotlight on the disparity in coverage of cases involving people of color.

A 38-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder, London's Metropolitan Police announced Thursday. Detectives also released images taken from surveillance cameras of another man they would like to question in the case. The investigation in ongoing.

According to authorities, Nessa left her house just before 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 to meet a friend at a bar in nearby Pegler Square. Her body was found in a park the next day.

"Sabina's journey should have taken just over five minutes, but she never made it to her destination," Detective Chief Inspector Joe Garrity said in a statement. "We know the community are rightly shocked by this murder — as are we."

Nessa lived with her father, a chef at an Indian restaurant.

“No mother or father should have to go through this,” her sister tweeted. “May Allah grant my parents ease.”

In an appearance on "Good Morning Britain" Thursday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that it was time to "make misogyny a hate crime."

Nessa's death comes six months after the murder of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old white woman who went missing after leaving a friend's house in South London. Her body was found a week later, and a police officer pleaded guilty to her kidnap, rape and murder.

Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard.
Sabina Nessa, Sarah Everard. (Met Police, Facebook)

Everard's killing prompted an outpouring from women across social media sharing harrowing experiences of sexual assault, and put the U.K.'s epidemic of harassment against women in the global spotlight. According to data released by the U.N. Women U.K. in March, 97 percent of British women between the ages of 18 and 24 said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.

The intense media interest in Everard's murder also prompted criticism about coverage of similar cases involving women of color. The same questions are now being raised in the wake of Nessa's killing.

"It is quite astounding that the Sabina Nessa murder is not dominating the news," tweeted Hannah Al-Othman, a journalist for the Sunday Times.

"The muted press reaction and lack of public outcry for Sabina Nessa demonstrates, once again, that not all victims are treated with the same respect and reverence," tweeted Mandu Reid, leader of the U.K. Women's Equality Party.

“The treatment of Sabina’s death has not been on the same level as others, and time and time again we see how victims from Black and [minority] communities do not receive the same level of attention and support,” Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, told the Guardian newspaper. “It is simply not good enough, and it has to change. Sabina’s death is as unacceptable and shocking as that of any other woman, and our headlines, TV coverage and outrage in our social media posts should reflect this.”

The debate over U.K. coverage of the Nessa case comes as the case of Gabby Petito has drawn widespread media attention, particularly in the United States.

Petito's body was found in a remote camping area in Wyoming Sunday, nearly three weeks after the 22-year-old's fiancé, Brian Laundrie, returned home to Florida from their cross-country trip without her.

Laundrie, who was named a person of interest by police, was last seen on Sept. 14, when he told his parents he was going to a nearby nature reserve to meditate. His parents reported him missing three days later, and police have been scouring the 24,565-acre reserve for him.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie.
Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie. (Facebook)

The wall-to-wall coverage of the Petito case has also prompted criticism of news outlets for not covering similar cases involving people of color.

Some critics have suggested the Petito case is a classic example of "missing white woman syndrome," a phrase — coined by the late journalist and “PBS NewsHour” co-host Gwen Ifill — to describe the media’s fascination with missing white women while ignoring cases involving people of color.

“The Petito family certainly deserve answers and justice,” MSNBC host Joy Reid said on air. “But the way the [Petito] story has captivated the nation has many wondering: Why not the same media attention when people of color go missing?”

Gabby Petito (Instragram)
Gabby Petito. (Instragram)

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