Life sentences for arson murders 'honour killing' gang

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The Independent Online

Four men who murdered a couple in a bungled honour killing attempt were jailed for life today.

The gang's intended victim was a Muslim man who was having an affair with a married woman but they firebombed the wrong house.

Abdullah Mohammed, 41, and his wife, Aysha, 39, were overcome by smoke and fumes at their home in Blackburn, Lancashire, and later died in hospital.

Ringleader Hisamuddin Ibrahim, 21, who ordered the arson attack, was jailed for a minimum of 28 years at Preston Crown Court today.

Habib Iqbal, 25, Sadek Miah, 23, and Mohammed Miah, 19, were jailed for minimum terms of 25, 21 and 19 years.

All four were convicted of the double murders yesterday.

Sentencing the four, Mr Justice Henriques said: "These were shocking and terrible murders.

"Two persons died; but for the speedy response of the emergency services it may well have been four or more.

"It is a most cruel irony that two such devout members of the community, both deeply religious, should have lost their lives to such a perverted and wicked act.

"It was intended to punish a man for committing adultery, swearing on the Koran he had not done so and then continuing to commit adultery.

"It is nearly impossible to imagine a worse case of arson than this.

"You have wreaked devastation on a blameless, devout family.

"They just happened to live at an address one digit removed from your intended target."

Ibrahim was enraged when he discovered his sister, Hafija Gorji, 22, was committing adultery with Mo Ibrahim (no relation) whom she met at a wedding in Manchester.

He ordered his best friend Iqbal to arrange a fire in the early hours of October 21 last year to kill Mo Ibrahim while he was asleep.

The intended victim lived at 135 London Road in Blackburn while the Mohammed family were at 175 London Road.

Hafija's marriage hit the rocks soon after she and her husband, who she married in India, set up home in the east Lancashire town early in 2009.

The court heard that the nursery nurse has since started divorced proceedings and that her relationship with Mo Ibrahim is still ongoing.

A month before the fire, Mo Ibrahim lied as he swore on the Koran in front of her relatives that the pair were just good friends.

That was thought to be the tipping point for Hisamuddin Ibrahim when he discovered the affair was still going on.

Just a week before the killings, he viewed a story on the BBC Crimewatch website about an unsolved fatal blaze in Eastbourne.

The story concerned a night-time arson attack on a private dwelling in which two occupants had been killed.

Prosecutors said the London Underground systems operator, on behalf of his family, asked Iqbal to drive up from London overnight and carry out the attack. Iqbal recruited his two friends, Sadek Miah and Mohammed Miah, for the mission.

There were no witnesses to the start of the blaze but CCTV footage captured a vehicle circling the surrounding streets three times shortly before.

Three figures were seen to leave the car in the direction of London Road, one appearing to carry a container, before returning and then driving away with its lights off as the flames took hold.

Their movements on the motorway were tracked by the automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system.

Without the CCTV and ANPR the defendants may never have been brought to justice, Mr Justice Henriques said.

Ibrahim, 21, of Shelley Avenue, Manor Park, east London; Mohammed Miah, 19, of Pelly Road, Plaistow, east London; Sadek Miah, 23, of Byng Street, Tower Hamlets, east London; and Iqbal, 25, of Strone Road, Manor Park, had all denied murder.

Sadek Miah had pleaded guilty to an alternative charge of manslaughter before the trial.