Aya Hachem: Seven men guilty of murdering teenager in botched drive-by shooting

Student was mistakenly shot dead while out buying groceries as petty business rivalry escalated into violence

Colin Drury
North of England Correspondent
Wednesday 04 August 2021 09:44
<p>Aya Hachem</p>

Aya Hachem

Seven men have been found guilty of murdering a teenager who was mistakenly shot dead during a feud between two tyre firm owners.

Law student Aya Hachem was killed in a bungled drive-by in Blackburn after Feroz Suleman arranged the execution of business rival Pachah Khan.

The 19-year-old was out buying groceries when she was hit by a bullet intended for Mr Khan on 17 May last year. She was simply "in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Preston Crown Court was told.

Suleman, 40, of Blackburn along with accomplices Kashif Manzoor, 26, Ayaz Hussain, 35, Abubakr Satia, 32, all of Blackburn; Zamir Raja, 33, of Stretford; Anthony Ennis, 31, of Partington, and Uthman Satia, 29, of Great Harwood, will be sentenced on Thursday.

An eighth defendant, Judy Chapman, 26, of Great Harwood, was cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter and will be sentenced on 1 October.

The killing – which caused an outpouring of outrage across Blackburn – was the culmination of an increasingly bitter feud between the two businessmen who owned rival carwash and tyre companies next door to each other in the town’s King Street.

So hostile had the pair become that CCTV footage showed Suleman walking outside his own business, RI Tyres, in the moments before the drive-by – an apparent attempt to have a “ringside seat” of Khan’s expected death.

But the court heard that, while the first shot hit the front window of Mr Khan’s business, Quick Shine Tyres, the second smashed into Ms Hachem as she walked along the street.

Passers-by tried to help the Salford University student but she died at the scene in the town’s King Street.

Earlier, jurors had been told that the friction between the two businessmen had started over nothing more serious than a decision by Quick Shine in 2019 to begin selling tyres, despite Suleman’s objections.

Matters deteriorated in December of that year when RI Tyres was set ablaze in the early hours of the morning, eventually leading Suleman to hire hitman Raja to carry out the botched shooting.

The other five convicted men – Manzoor, Hussain, Ennis, Uthman Satia and Abubakr Satia – each had different roles in the planning of the attack, including hiring Raja, sourcing and purchasing a car to transport the shooter, and buying petrol to burn the car with.

Alan Richardson, prosecuting, said: "The ruthlessness of everyone involved is staggering, with the group going to extreme lengths to plan an assassination in broad daylight, risking the lives of members of the public going about their daily business."

He added: “"Each of these callous conspirators is in their way responsible for the senseless killing of Aya Hachem – an innocent young woman full of promise who lost her life as a result of a petty business rivalry.”

After the killing, Lancashire Police arrested a total of 23 people. Detectives travelled to Glasgow, Dublin and London to piece together the crime, as well as to Spain and Portugal during an international manhunt to locate Raja and Ennis, who had both fled the country.

Speaking after the verdict, Ms Hachem's family – who had moved to the UK from Lebanon – said she had been training to be a barrister.

“We are so proud of you and we miss you so much,” they said. “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."