Residents, who have said they once felt safe in the area, are now afraid to walk in the dark or walk home alone following the murder of the 28-year-old teacher in a park.
Police believe she was on a five-minute walk from home to a pub last Friday when she was attacked in Cator Park, Kidbrooke. Friends have reportedly said she was going on a first date.
On Thursday, officers said they were pursuing a line of inquiry that she had been murdered by a stranger, a development that has caused some to take extra precautions.
“My wife quite often walks home from the train station, I have to pick her up from the station now and be extra vigilant – it’s quite scary,” Thomas Kruel, who lives on the same street as Ms Nessa’s home, told The Independent.
“We’ll keep doing that until they catch the person,” he added.
Tracy, 52, who declined to give her full name, was near tears describing the frustration of women in the area who feel they can’t run or walk without being “murdered, harassed or robbed”.
“I’m a woman of this neighbourhood – it’s the fact that we are not safe in 2021. That’s what bothers me,” she said. “I’m frustrated, nobody needs flowers, we need something done, we need to be heard. I’m sick of it – her poor family. You can’t even go to the pub, what is wrong with people?
“I never run at night any more, I stopped two years ago. I’ve lived in New York, LA, Bali – all over the world – and I can't believe you can’t go through a park at 8.30pm at night.”
Police have sought to allay the fears of the local community. Detective Chief Superintendent Trevor Lawry insisted at a press conference in Kidbrooke on Thursday “the streets are safe for women”.
“People should be free to walk around free from fear and officers are here to make sure that can take place,” he added.
When asked whether police believe Ms Nessa was attacked by a stranger, he replied: “That is definitely a line of inquiry we are looking at.”
Her body, which was, “off the track that you would normally walk”, was found by someone walking their dog, the local policing commander added.
Mr Lawry said “significant lines of inquiry” were being followed by detectives but they are keeping a “completely open mind” as to the motive of the attack.
Police had arrested a 40-year-old man in connection with the murder. He was later released pending further investigation.
Ms Nessa, who taught at Rushey Green Primary School in Catford, is believed to have left her home in Astell Road just before 8.30pm last Friday.
Her body was found close to the OneSpace community cafe, inside the park, the following day.
She was on her way to The Depot, a pub in Pegler Square, Kidbrooke.
Residents told The Independent that parts of the walk through the park are “poorly lit” but is a route routinely taken.
Caitlyn Kelly, who lives in the same building as Ms Nessa’s home, said she gets “chills” every time she walks through the park now and said the parts of the pathway Ms Nessa walked are “pure darkness” and would be poorly lit around the time she was attacked.
“I definitely won’t walk home at night any more,” Ms Kelly said. “Us women in the Kidbrooke community don’t want to go out until we know what’s what. I’m questioning everything right now.”
Ms Kelly’s husband, Ben, said he: “Doesn’t let [Caitlyn] walk alone any more at night”.
Ms Nessa’s sister paid tribute, writing on social media: “My beautiful talented & caring sister my inspiration to always put myself first & never let anybody put me down never in my life did I or my sisters or my mum or dad think this could happen to us. May Allah grant her JannahAmeen.”
A vigil in remembrance is being held on Friday.
A post-mortem examination on Monday was inconclusive.
Anyone with information should call the incident room on 0208 721 4266 or Crimestoppers completely anonymously on 0800 555 111.