Staff at a hotel were uneasy about the behavior of Koci Selamaj and called the police hours before he murdered Sabina Nessa, but officers failed to attend, it has emerged.
On the day of the killing, Selamaj, 36, a petrol station worker who lived in Eastbourne, booked a £ 300- £ 400 room at the Grand hotel in the seaside town, where his wife, Ionela, worked.
His wife had left him weeks previously owing to domestic abuse, including “throttling” her at least three times, detectives said. After he booked the room, Selamaj propositioned his wife for sex, which she refused.
Hotel staff, knowing that Selamaj lived nearby, were uneasy at the booking and called 101 to alert police, detectives said. But Sussex police did not dispatch any officers.
Selamaj later drove from Eastbourne to Kidbrooke, in south-east London, a suburb he is believed not to have visited before, where he battered and strangled Nessa, 28, a primary school teacher who was a stranger to him, as she walked through Cator Park to meet a friend at about 8.30pm on 17 September last year.
Metropolitan police detectives described it as a “pre-meditated, sexually motivated murder”. Selamaj pleaded guilty in February to the murder.
DCI Neil John said: “We have an individual who booked this hotel on the 17th. We know from speaking to his partner that he had asked her to meet in the car during the day of the 17th at the Grand hotel where he proposed to her for a sexual encounter. She obviously said no. ”
Detectives said staff grew concerned after Selamaj was asked to pay for the hotel room. DS Mark Johnson said: “A member of the hotel staff called 101 … They were a bit uneasy about him. They knew he lived close by so there was something not quite right about him. ”
DCI John said: “The hotel staff was uncomfortable about his demeanor. They just were not comfortable. He was questioning and querying why they wanted him to pay now. ”
Explaining Sussex’s police’s decision not to attend, John added: “Police can not go to everything. The police operator did the right thing as in that moment there was no cause for any great concern. The operator informed the staff that the call had been reported, and if there was more cause for concern to call the police back and they would reassess. ”
Sussex police said: “Police were contacted around 4.40pm on Friday 17 September to report a disagreement between a man and staff at a hotel in Eastbourne earlier in the day, around the payment of a room. The matter was resolved and police were not required to attend. “
Nessa was hit an estimated 34 times with a metal traffic warning triangle that Selamaj chose to use after buying a rolling pin in Sainsbury’s, before she was strangled. Her body was discovered 24 hours later covered with grass near a community center in the park. Her underwear was missing, her dress pulled up and her bra exposed.
On Thursday, the Old Bailey heard how Selamaj arrived back at the hotel at midnight after killing Nessa and checked out the following morning.
Selamaj’s wife told police she had left him weeks before. “The wife was spoken to and she revealed that there was domestic violence in that relationship,” John said. “Part of that domestic violence had involved up to three occasions where she was throttled at the neck. None of that had been reported to the police.
“When we spoke to her, she was very upset, very delicate, as you can imagine, finding out what her husband has done. She has now gone back to Romania. It had such a huge impact on her that she has decided to return home. ”
Through automatic number plate recognition cameras, detectives were able to track Selamaj’s return to Eastbourne via Kent. The murder weapon was found in the Teise River in Kent but no forensic evidence could be retrieved.
Officers said of his motive that it would be speculation to attribute it to his wife leaving him. “When he was cautioned he said ‘what would happen if I open up now?’ That’s the only thing he has said to the police all throughout the investigation. “