10/26/2012 01:41 EDT | Updated 12/26/2012 05:12 EST

Cabbagetown residents plant tree in memory of slain woman

Cabbagetown residents are mourning the loss of a 55-year-old woman who was brutally stabbed to death earlier this week, planting a Japanese maple tree in her memory in a local park.

Nighisti Semret was attacked in an alleyway near Parliament Street and Carlton Street just before 7 a.m. Tuesday while walking home from her job as an overnight cleaner at the Delta Chelsea hotel.

Dozens gathered Thursday night for a vigil near the site of the chilling attack to lay flowers and light candles, later walking to Winchester Square Park to plant the tree as a permanent memorial.

Many in the small community, like Semret's neighbour Joan Bell, are still coming to grips with the shocking slaying.

"I feel like knocking at her door and telling her to get outta bed, like this can't be happening," said Bell.

Police released video surveillance earlier this week which showed Semret walking home, her umbrella sheltering her from the rain. The video shows that she was closely followed by her eventual attacker.

"Whether the buildings need better lighting, whether we need more fencing, whether we need more cameras, I can assure you likely all of those things will happen, just to try and make it that much safer," said Cabbagetown resident Shelley Ledger.

Police have said they believe the attack was random, and they have asked local residents to search their backyards for a discarded knife that may have been tossed by the suspect.

Police continue their search to identify the man in the surveillance footage, described as white, with a medium build. He's believed to be between five-foot-10 to six-foot-two, 150 to 200 pounds.

He was wearing a dark coat, a light-coloured scarf and a dark hat in the video, police say.