Seven men convicted following kidnap and murder of dad stabbed 90 times by vigilante gang after wrongful identification

23 January 2023, 23:02 | Updated: 23 January 2023, 23:27

Mr Hughes was stabbed 90 times before his body was dumped at the bottom of an embankment.
Mr Hughes was stabbed 90 times before his body was dumped at the bottom of an embankment. Picture: LBC / Alamy / GMP

By Danielle DeWolfe

Seven men have been convicted of abduction and murder after a dad was stabbed 90 times in a case of misidentification, after a teen girl was raped at knife point.

Christopher Hughes, 37, was kidnapped and killed by the group in Skelmersdale after being hunted down by the group over a 24 hour period.

The father, a former boxer, was targeted on February 18 last year after he was wrongly thought to be behind the knife-point rape of a teen girl behind a Wigan Post Office.

Liverpool Crown Court heard how Mr Hughes was locked in the boot of an Audi following his abduction and could be heard calling out: "what have I done wrong?!"

The jury returned an unanimous verdict of guilty for seven out of the eight defendants in the case, following 34 hours of deliberations.

Mr Hughes is believed to have been in the boot of the Audio driven by by Curtis Balbas, 30, and Erland Spahiu, 34, when it was captured on CCTV in the area he disappeared just before 5pm.
Mr Hughes is believed to have been in the boot of the Audio driven by by Curtis Balbas, 30, and Erland Spahiu, 34, when it was captured on CCTV in the area he disappeared just before 5pm. Picture: Greater Manchester Police

Mr Hughes is believed to have been in the boot of the Audio driven by by Curtis Balbas, 30, and Erland Spahiu, 34, when it was captured on CCTV in the area he disappeared just before 5pm.

The pair are then said to have driven Mr Hughes to Skelmersdale, where they proceeded to stab him 90 times before dumping his body at the bottom of an embankment.

The group initially drove to wasteland where they began digging a grave, however, after being spotted by police attending a road traffic accident nearby they abandoned their plan.

Mr Hughes body was discovered four days later at the bottom of the hillside by a passing dog walker.

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Prosecutor John Elvidge KC told Liverpool Crown Court that Dean O’Neill Davey, 30, and Andrius Uzkuraitis, 27, as well as Spahiu's cousin, Erion Voja, 21, joined the two kidnappers as part of a burial party, as the group attempted to hide the body.

Balbas pleaded guilty to abduction and murder before the trial began at Liverpool Crown Court
Balbas pleaded guilty to abduction and murder before the trial began at Liverpool Crown Court. Picture: LBC / Alamy

Balbas pleaded guilty to abduction and murder before the trial began.

Seven of the remaining suspects - Spahiu, O’Neill Davey, Voja, Martin Smith, Alan Jaf, Khalil Awla, and Mohammed Razgar were all found guilty of kidnap and murder.

Andrius Uzkuraitis was cleared of three charges - murder, kidnap and conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm - but convicted of assisting an offender.

Mr Hughes' mother added: "He will leave a part in the family that can never be filled."

Sentencing is expected on January 24.

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