Nick Abbot 10pm - 1am
Seven guilty of murdering teenage law student in drive-by shooting
4 August 2021, 00:17 | Updated: 4 August 2021, 00:23
Seven men have been found guilty of murdering a law student after the wrong person was hit during a drive-by shooting.
Tyre firm boss Feroz Suleman, 40, arranged the execution of a rival businessman in broad daylight but the gunman he hired instead shot dead innocent passer-by Aya Hachem.
The 19-year-old was said to be "in the wrong place at the wrong time" as the long-running feud between the neighbouring tyre companies culminated in Blackburn, Lancashire, on the afternoon of May 17 last year.
A Toyota Avensis driven by Anthony Ennis, 31, with hitman Zamir Raja, 33, on board drove past Quickshine Tyres on three occasions shortly before the fatal fourth journey.
Footage from CCTV cameras captured Suleman stood outside his premises next door at RI Tyres with a "ringside seat" to the shooting he had arranged of Pachah Khan, the proprietor of Quickshine Tyres.
The first shot hit the front window of Quickshine and the second was let off as Lebanese-born Miss Hachem walked by, hitting her rather than the intended target.
On Tuesday, a jury at Preston Crown Court took less than four hours to find Suleman, from Blackburn, guilty of murder and the attempted murder of Mr Khan.
Raja, of Stretford, Greater Manchester, and Ennis, of Partington, Greater Manchester, were also convicted of murder and attempted murder, as were other accomplices Kashif Manzoor, 26, of Blackburn, Ayaz Hussain, 35, of Blackburn, Abubakr Satia, 32, of Blackburn, and his brother Uthman Satia, 29, of Blackburn.
Uthman Satia's girlfriend, Judy Chapman, 26, of Great Harwood, was cleared of murder and attempted murder but found guilty of manslaughter.
Miss Hachem was shot in King Street while on a shopping trip to the nearby Lidl supermarket to buy food ready for when her family would break their Ramadan fast that evening.
Earlier, Manzoor made sure the Avensis was ready for the shooting as he jump-started the vehicle bought for just £300 by Abubakr Satia a week earlier.
Hussain, described as Suleman's "right-hand man", acted as an intermediary with gunman Raja.
Chapman and Uthman Satia drove the Manchester assassins away from the scene.
The court heard the feud started in early 2019 when Quickshine began selling tyres next door to RI after previously restricting itself to washing cars.
Matters deteriorated on December 3 of that year when someone set fire to RI Tyres in King Street in the early hours of the morning.
On May 1 last year, Suleman called the police and reported Pachah Khan had prevented workmen from entering Quickshine's yard to finish putting up a new sign for RI Tyres, the court was told.
In 2001, Suleman was convicted of causing the death of a 67-year-old man by dangerous driving.
He ran away from the scene of the incident in Blackburn and claimed his vehicle had been stolen before he finally pleaded guilty to the offence on the day of his trial and was jailed for three-and-a-half years.
The seven male defendants will be sentenced on Thursday. Chapman will be sentenced in October.
In a statement, Miss Hachem's family said: "We thank God for the justice that has been served today.
"To our dear beautiful angel in heaven we know you are in a better and more beautiful place. God chose you from amongst many and blessed you with martyrdom.
"We are so proud of you and we miss you so much - our lives are difficult without you. This is God's decree and praise be to God for this. You will remain in our hearts forever.
"You loved life and despite all the struggles and barriers that we faced in this country, it did not stop you contributing to your community and charities including the Children's Society and fundraising at Salford University where you were studying to become a barrister.
"God chose you as an angel in his heaven. Heaven is yours and may God give us the patience after your murder. We love you."
Detective Chief Inspector Zoe Russo, of Lancashire Police, said: "Throughout this long and incredibly complex investigation, our focus has been clear - to find the people involved in this most serious course of offending, bring them before the court and to ensure that Aya's family receive justice.
"We must, however, not forget that these convictions will not bring Aya back. Her family continues to mourn her loss. Aya was a remarkable and much loved 19 year old woman.
"Aya and her family had left Lebanon for the safety of England. Her dream was to qualify and practise as a solicitor."
Miss Hachem was one of the youngest trustees of The Children's Society charity.