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Six convicted of killing after Watford car chase stabbing

|News, Violent crime

Six men have been convicted of killing a man who was stabbed to death while trapped in the back of a car.

The offenders embarked on a dangerous car chase through the streets of Watford after a dispute escalated between themselves and another man, Ryan Higgins. They eventually collided with the car that Mr Higgins was driving – a VW Golf – and launched a violent attack on him, Luke O’Connell and a female passenger in the car. The group used weapons including a samurai sword, a machete and a wrench to smash through the vehicle’s windows and assault the car’s occupants.

During the attack Luke O’Connell, 26, was stabbed in the back. Although passers-by tried to perform first aid on him, he died of his injuries shortly afterwards in the early hours of 31 August 2019.

Shahnavaz Azad (29), Aamir Mustafa (24) and Mohammed Hamza Azad (24) were today convicted of murder at Reading at Reading Crown Court, while Mohammed Haroon Azad (23), Umar Sarfraz (23) and Mohammed Hamza Shah (21) were found guilty of manslaughter for their involvement in the killing. They were all also found guilty of wounding Ryan Higgins, who was stabbed in the leg, arm and back during the attack.

A seventh defendant, Mohammed Raja Azad (50), was found guilty of perverting the course of justice, after booking Mohammed Haroon Azad a flight to flee the country and meeting him at Heathrow airport after learning that Shahnavaz Azad had been arrested. Mohammed Raja Azad is the father of Shahnavaz Azad, Mohammed Haroon and Mohammed Hamza.

Statements from witnesses who were woken up by the car crash and the violence that followed told how two cars had rammed the VW Golf before the defendants crowded around it and began hitting it with weapons. Some heard a person shouting that they were “bleeding out” while another heard somebody say: “Come on lads, that’s enough now, I think he’s learnt his lesson.”

During the trial, the Crown Prosecution Service presented forensic evidence and the findings of a reconstruction of the collision to prove what happened during the attack. The reconstruction showed that the defendants, using two cars, forced a collision with the victims’ car.  An analysis of blood patterns inside the car showed that Luke O’Connell and the driver of the Golf, Ryan Higgins, were sitting in the car when they were attacked, and were not out in the street as the defendants tried to claim.

Senior Crown Prosecutor Jan Muller of the CPS said: “A young man tragically lost his life in this senseless attack. Luke O’Connell’s attackers chose to arm themselves with weapons and went out to engage in extreme violence.

“The Crown Prosecution Service used extensive forensic evidence carefully gathered by police and findings from a detailed reconstruction of the collision to build a successful prosecution and we are pleased that the jury has decided to convict those responsible for Luke’s death.

“We hope that this will go some way to delivering a sense of justice to Luke’s family and friends, who have suffered an unthinkable loss, and demonstrate to those who feel the need to behave in this way that we will not hesitate to prosecute violent crimes of any type where our charging test is met”.

Notes to editors

  • The following defendants were convicted of murder and wounding with intent at Reading Crown Court on 16 September 2021:
    • Shahnavaz Azad (31.05.1992)
    • Aamir Mustafa (28.04.1997)
    • Mohammed Hamza Azad (19.02.1997)
  • The following defendants were convicted of manslaughter and wounding at Reading Crown Court on 16 September 2021:
    • Umar Sarfraz (02.08.1998)
    • Mohammed Hamza Shah (02.03.2000)
    • Mohammed Haroon Azad (31.08.1998)
  • Mohammed Raja Azad (13.04.1971) was convicted of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice.
  • Jan Muller is a Senior Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service.

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