Aya Hachem: Seven men given life sentences for mistakenly killing student in drive-by

5 August 2021, 14:41

Aya Hachem was shot dead in Blackburn
Aya Hachem was shot dead in Blackburn. Picture: Lancashire Police

By Will Taylor

Seven men have been given life sentences after a student was mistakenly killed in a drive-by shooting.

Aya Hachem died in hospital after being hit by a bullet fired from a car in Blackburn in May last year.

Tyre firm boss Feroz Suleman, 40, arranged the execution of a rival businessman in broad daylight but the gunman he hired instead shot innocent passer-by Aya Hachem.

On Thursday, Suleman, from Blackburn, was ordered to serve a minimum of 34 years before he could be considered for parole.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Turner told Suleman: "You were the driving force behind the whole deadly enterprise from beginning to end and followed through this plan with obsessive determination.

"When you were in prison you commented to Abubakr Satia you were the captain of the ship and if you were to go down then everyone would down with you. How right you were."

Read more: Seven guilty of murdering teenage law student in drive-by shooting

The gunman, Zamir Raja, 33, from Stretford, was also jailed for a minimum of 34 years, and his driver, Anthony Ennis, 31, from Partington, will serve at least 33 years.

Fellow accomplices Ayaz Hussain, 36, from Blackburn; Abubakr Satia, 32, also from Blackburn; his brother, Uthman Satia, 29, from Great Harwood; and Kashif Manzoor, 26, from Blackburn, were handed minimum terms of 32 years, 28 years, 28 years and 27 years, respectively.

Ms Hachem was heading to a nearby supermarket to buy food, ready for when her family would break their Ramadan feast, when she was shot.

The 19-year-old - who had dreamed of becoming a solicitor - originally fled from violence in her native Lebanon as a child to settle with her family in Blackburn, Lancashire.

The bullet entered her left shoulder, passed through her body and embedded itself in a telegraph pole.

Read more: Aya Hachem: Five people charged with law student's murder

The intended target was Pachah Khan, 31, owner of Quickshine Car Wash, who angered Suleman when they began to sell tyres and became direct competition.

A feud developed between the two and Suleman ordered the execution of Mr Khan, telling his ally, Hussain, to recruit an assassin.

Manchester-based hitman Raja and his driver Ennis were assigned the task.

Abubakr Satia sourced the silver Toyota Avensis used for the planned shooting, which Kashif Manzoor jump-starting to ensure it would work.

Judy Chapman, 26, from Great Harwood, drove the gunman and driver from Bolton with her boyfriend, Uthman Satia.

She is also set to be sentenced on October 1, after being found guilty of the manslaughter of Ms Hachem. She was cleared of murder and attempted murder.

Read more: Aya Hachem: 11 arrested in connection with law student's death

Giving evidence at the 12-week trial, divorced father-of-two Suleman previously denied any knowledge of a plot to kill Mr Khan.

However, Hussain told jurors that Suleman wanted Mr Khan "roughed up" and introduced him to Raja, despite claiming there was no plan to kill.

Raja initially said he had nothing to do with the shooting, instead suggesting he had arrived in Blackburn for a drugs deal, but during the trial he admitted he fired the gun.

He later refused to return to the witness box to explain his intent.

Meanwhile, Manzoor and the Satia brothers told the jury they were all innocent, with cocaine addict Uthman Satia claiming he thought he was taking two men for a test drive of the car.

The jury took less than four hours on Tuesday to reject their version of events and convicted the seven male defendants of the murder of Ms Hachem and the attempted murder of Mr Khan.

Mr Justice Turner told them: "None of you seven showed any remorse in the aftermath of the shooting. Together you tried to lie, scheme and plot your way out of trouble.

"It was not long before you all started to sacrifice your co-defendants in an attempt to save your own skins."

In 2001, Suleman had been jailed for three-and-half years for causing the death of a 67-year-old man by dangerous driving.