Seven men have been found guilty of murdering a law student who was gunned down in a botched drive-by shooting amid a longstanding business feud.
Aya Hachem, 19, was mistakenly shot from a passing car while buying groceries near her home in Blackburn, Lancashire, on the afternoon of May 17, 2020.
The hit, arranged by tyre firm boss Feroz Suleman, 40, was intended for rival Pachah Khan, the owner of Quickshine Tyres, but the gunman he hired instead shot Miss Hachem dead.
Driver Anthony Ennis, 31, and hitman Zamir Raja, 33, drove past Quickshine Tyres together on three occasions shortly before the fatal fourth journey.
CCTV footage shows Suleman waiting outside his premises next door at RI Tyres with a ‘ringside seat’ to the shooting he had arranged.
But the first shot hit the front window of Quickshine and the second was fired as Miss Hachem walked by, gunning her down rather than the intended target.
A jury at Preston Crown Court today took less than four hours to find Suleman, from Blackburn, guilty of murder and the attempted murder of rival Mr Khan.
Ennis and Raja, from Partington and Stretford in Greater Manchester, were also convicted of murder and attempted murder.
Their accomplices, Kashif Manzoor, 26, Ayaz Hussain, 35, Abubakr Satia, 32, and his brother Uthman Satia, 29, all from Blackburn, were also convicted of murder and attempted murder.
Uthman Satia’s girlfriend, Judy Chapman, 26, from Great Harwood, was cleared of murder and attempted murder – but found guilty of manslaughter.
Miss Hachem’s heartbroken family welcomed the verdict and paid tribute to their daughter, an aspiring barrister, who ‘will remain in our hearts forever’.
Disturbing CCTV footage shows the moment Lebanese-born Miss Hachem, described as a ‘beautiful angel’ by her family, was shot dead while on a shopping trip.
The student had been on her way to nearby Lidl to buy food ready for when her family would break their Ramadan fast that evening.
In a video, released by Lancashire Police, a Toyota Avensis is seen slowly approaching the garage before one of the shots fired bursts a bucket near an employee, who spins around in shock.
Miss Hachem is seen walking down King Street past the garage – just feet away from the Toyota – before she was shot at point-blank range by the second bullet.
She was shot in the chest, with the force of the bullet travelling through her body and hitting a telegraph pole.
Earlier, Manzoor had made sure the vehicle was ready for the shooting as he jump-started the Toyota bought for just £300 by Abubakr Satia a week earlier.
Hussain, described as Suleman’s ‘right-hand man’, acted as an intermediary with gunman Raja, while Chapman and Uthman Satia then drove the assassins away from the scene.
The court heard the feud between the tyre businesses started in early 2019 when Quickshine began selling tyres next door to RI, after previously restricting itself to washing cars.
Matters deteriorated on December 3 of that year when someone set fire to RI Tyres in the early hours of the morning.
On May 1 last year, Suleman reported to police that Mr Khan had prevented workmen from entering Quickshine’s yard to finish putting up a new sign for RI Tyres, the court was told.
In 2001, Suleman was convicted of causing the death of a 67-year-old man by dangerous driving.
He ran away from the scene of the incident in Blackburn and claimed his vehicle had been stolen, before finally pleading guilty. He was jailed for three-and-a-half years.
The seven male defendants will be sentenced on Thursday, while Chapman will be sentenced in October.
In a statement, Miss Hachem’s family said: ‘We thank God for the justice that has been served today.
‘To our dear beautiful angel in heaven we know you are in a better and more beautiful place. God chose you from amongst many and blessed you with martyrdom.
‘We are so proud of you and we miss you so much – our lives are difficult without you.’
They added: ‘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 including the Children’s Society and fundraising at Salford University where you were studying to become a barrister.
‘God chose you as an angel in his heaven. Heaven is yours and may God give us the patience after your murder. We love you.’
Detective Chief Inspector Zoe Russo, of Lancashire Police, said: ‘Throughout this long and incredibly complex investigation, our focus has been clear – to find the people involved in this most serious course of offending, bring them before the court and to ensure that Aya’s family receive justice.
‘We must, however, not forget that these convictions will not bring Aya back. Her family continues to mourn her loss.
‘Aya was a remarkable and much loved 19 year old woman.
‘Aya and her family had left Lebanon for the safety of England. Her dream was to qualify and practise as a solicitor.’