Community social media pages have seen an outpouring of grief and anger since the murder of Lena Zhang Harrap. Photo / StarJam
A new Facebook page dedicated to anyone feeling unsafe in the Mount Albert community after the death of Lena Zhang Harrap has garnered more than 350 members and growing, less than 24 hours after it was created.
Social media has been abuzz with messages of grief, frustration and support for the whānau of Harrap since news broke of her killing on Wednesday.
The 27-year-old had Down syndrome and was attacked when she was out on her daily morning walk.
Police have arrested a 31-year-old man who appeared in Auckland District Court yesterday charged with sexual violation and murder.
He did not enter a plea but was granted interim name suppression by the judge.
Creators of the new Facebook group MAC Wāhine/Women said they hope to create a space for women in the Mt Albert community to share experiences, warn each other and find support.
“As a disabled woman who lives close by I feel quite sick about poor Lena. I often take the dog for a walk/wheel by myself. She just wanted her independence,” said one of the group’s first posts by a member.
Another member said it was amazing to see the wāhine of Mt Albert unite and together face a problem that took one of their own.
“I’m tired of hearing men say walk faster, carry a key in your fingers, walk on main streets (cause it still happens on main streets),” she said.
The Mount Albert Community Facebook page has also been seeing an outpouring of anger and frustration after the crime.
“Why in 2021, can’t NZ wahine walk without fear wherever, whenever – a dark car park, a late night dog walk, from the bus stop at dusk … or now up our Maunga at 7am?” asked Liz Lyons.
“Dear men of Mount Albert, please go out of your way to make the women in our community feel safe in public. I like many others feel frightened and vulnerable,” said Justine Rose.
Many shared messages of support for Harrap’s friends and family, with suggestions to donate to charities StarJam and Heart Kids, or light a candle in her memory.
“Lighting a candle seems to bring some peace and light to this dark space,” read a post by Sally Rayner.
“Many of us are feeling very emotional at the moment … ask yourself, ‘what would Lena do?’ Turn that energy into going for a walk and smiling, saying hello to as many people as you can, making their day brighter … into making a donation, no matter how small,” said Caroline Ciacca Church.
Police do not have additional safety measures for the Mount Albert suburb following the attack, but said they are working toward long-term solutions to prevent crime.
“Everything we do at New Zealand Police is about ensuring people are safe and feel safe,” said Superintendent Eric Tibbott.
But police cannot do it alone and work closely with a range of agencies and organisations to support victims and reduce offending, he said.
“Tragic events such as the abhorrent attack on Lena are rare.”
Tibbott said there are a few things everyone can do to help keep themselves safe, including being aware of your surroundings, planning your route, and making sure another person knows your plan.
“Always carry your phone but don’t let it distract you.
“Trust your instincts – if you feel an area or situation is dangerous, don’t wait around to find out. If you think you are being followed at night walk as quickly as you can to a well-lit public place and call a friend, taxi or other passenger service to get yourself safely home,” said Tibbott.