Christina Abbotts’ family begun a desperate search for her on Friday night when she didn’t arrive at her pre-planned celebrations with friends, and her body was discovered in a flat in Gossops Green, Crawley.
Zahid Naseem, 47, appeared in Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Monday charged with her murder. He spoke only to confirm his name, age and address.
He knew 29-year-old Ms Abbotts and was arrested outside the flat on Friday night.
In tribute, her family said: “Christina, our sweet loving daughter and best friend, educated at Cirencester and Oxford, will be sorely missed. This independent lady, a much travelled person was taken from us far too early.
“Her friends in London and parts of the UK will also be grieving.
“The light in our life is now extinguished. Love forever from our family.”
The preliminary cause of death from the post-mortem examination is blunt force trauma to the head, a spokesman for Sussex Police said.
Neighbours said police “flooded” the street on Friday, after a man came looking for his daughter.
Deliveroo driver Aaron Harvey, 24, said: “This man came over, saying he had been looking for his daughter and had I seen her.
“He said she had been house-sitting for a man in a flat here for four months.
“He said no-one had heard from her for about 10 hours and he was worried.
“He said it was her birthday and she had booked a hotel in London to celebrate with friends but never turned up.”
Mr Harvey said he saw a different man, in a wheelchair, being pushed out of the flat. He said he was “covered in blood”.
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He said: “He was taken over to the ambulance to be treated. We have never seen him before so we don’t think he lives here.”
Naseem, of Amersham, was remanded in custody and is due to appear at Lewes Crown Court on Wednesday.