Aya Hachem murder: Seven people convicted over law student’s shooting
A business owner and his associates who hired a hitman to kill a competitor have been convicted of murdering a law student caught in the cross-fire.
Eight people were charged with murder following the shooting of 19-year-old Aya Hachem, who was walking along King Street in Blackburn on 17 May 2020. The shot missed the intended target and hit Ms Hachem instead.
Seven people were convicted of murder at Preston Crown Court. One person was convicted of manslaughter.
The killing was the result of a long-standing feud between two rival car wash businesses where resentment escalated into violence. Feroz Suleman, owner of RI Tyres, and his friend Ayaz Hussain, recruited Zamir Raja to assassinate the owner of rival car wash business Quickshine Tyres.
The rivalry between the two businesses intensified in December 2019 when RI Tyres was subject to an arson attack, which Suleman suspected was the work of Quickshine.
By May 2020, relations were so embittered that Suleman began masterminding a plan to murder the owner of Quickshine as a means of resolving the dispute. He and Hussain enlisted Zamir Raja to carry out the shooting, while Antony Ennis was recruited as the driver.
On 17 May, after practicing the route for the planned drive-by shooting the day before, shots aimed at Quickshine were fired from an Avensis car – with the second bullet striking Ms Hachem. She had been walking past on her way to the supermarket to pick up food for her family.
After Ms Hachem fell to the ground, many passers-by stopped and tried to help, but her injuries were already fatal.
CCTV showed Suleman and Manzoor watching the shooting from the adjacent carwash.
The eight co-conspirators denied murder but were convicted after a ten-week trial. Hitman Raja and Ayaz Hussain admitted manslaughter mid-trial but this plea was rejected by the CPS.
Alan Richardson, Senior Crown Prosecutor, said: "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.
"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.
“Even when the wrong target was hit, they refused to display any guilt or remorse and denied involvement in this devastating murder.
"We would like to thank the police for their meticulous work on this case. Together the CPS and police were able to build a strong case against each of them by detailed forensic analysis of many hours of CCTV and telephone evidence.
"Today our thoughts are with Aya Hachem’s loved ones and we hope they feel justice has now been served."
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Zoe Russo from Lancashire’s Force Major Investigation Team (FMIT), said: "I am pleased with today’s result which is the conclusion of months of meticulous and challenging police work.
"Throughout this incredibly long and complex investigation, our focus was always clear; to find the people involved so we could get justice for Aya.
"With that, my thanks goes to each and every police officer and member of police staff who dedicated many hours, skill and expertise to track the people involved down and build a case so strong that, along with the excellent work by CPS and Counsel, helped the jury reach their guilty verdicts."
How the case was proved
In bringing this case to trial, the prosecution had to prove that each of the eight defendants was responsible for Ms Hachem’s killing, despite the many different roles they played.
A further challenge was the level of forensic awareness the killers displayed in trying to get away with the assassination plot. This included hiring a hitman, using a vehicle they thought could not be linked to Suleman, and placing their phones in a different location as the shooting took place.
But through presenting CCTV footage, call and cell site data and witness accounts gathered by police, the CPS was able to expose these lies and prove to the jury the unique role each of the conspirators had played as follows:
- Feroz Suleman, 40, of Shear Brow, Blackburn – the owner of RI Tyres and the instigator of the assassination
- Ayaz Hussain, 35, of Calgary Avenue, Blackburn – a friend of Suleman’s who helped him organise the killing and acted as mediator between the conspirators
- Zamir Raja, 33, of Davyhulme Road, Stretford – the hitman who shot Aya Hachem
- Antony Ennis, 31, of Grasmere Court, Partington – the driver of the car the shots were fired from
- Abubakhar Satia, 32, of Oxford Close, Blackburn – hired the Avensis chosen for use in the hit
- Kashif Manzoor, 26, of Shakeshaft Street, Blackburn – started the Avensis with jump leads
- Uthman Satia, 29, and Judy Chapman, 26, of St Hubert’s Road, Great Harwood – helped transport the killers to and from the crime scene in a separate vehicle
Notes to editors
- Feroz Suleman has been found guilty of murder and attempted murder and will be sentenced on Thursday 5 August.
- Ayaz Hussain has been found guilty of murder and attempted murder and will be sentenced on murder Thursday 5 August.
- Zamir Raja has been found guilty of murder and attempted murder and will be sentenced on Thursday 5 August.
- Antony Ennis has been found guilty of murder and attempted murder and will be sentenced on Thursday 5 August.
- Abubakhar Satia has been found guilty of murder and attempted murder and will be sentenced on Thursday 5 August.
- Kashif Manzoor has been found guilty of murder and attempted murder and will be sentenced on Thursday 5 August.
- Uthman Satia has been found guilty of murder and attempted murder and will be sentenced on Thursday 5 August.
- Judy Chapman has been found guilty of manslaughter and will be sentenced on 1 October.
- Alan Richardson is a Senior Crown Prosecutor with CPS North West Complex Casework Unit.