Aya Hachem: tribute to Lebanese law student shot dead in UK as 7 men convicted of murder

Hachem, 19, was caught up in a drive-by shooting as she walked to the shops in Blackburn, Lancashire

Aya Hackem was killed in Blackburn, northwest England

The family of a young Lebanese-born law student spoke of their pride in her achievements after seven men were found guilty of her murder in a botched drive-by shooting.

Aya Hachem, 19, was mistakenly shot dead in May last year when she became caught up in a violent business dispute between two tyre companies in the north-west English town of Blackburn.

She was heading to the shops for food to break the Ramadan fast that evening when she was killed by a hitman whose target was the boss of a business at the centre of the dispute.

“We thank God for the justice that has been served today,” Hachem’s family said in a statement after seven men behind the shooting were found guilty on Tuesday.

“We are so proud of you and we miss you so much – our lives are difficult without you. This is God’s decree and praise be to God for this. You will remain in our hearts forever.”

The family moved to Britain from Lebanon more than a decade ago.

“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.”

The jury heard that the head of one of the companies, Feroz Suleman, 40, arranged the shooting of Pacha Khan, his rival in the business next door, and hired a hitman, Zamir Raja.

Suleman and Mr Khan fell out after they became direct competitors in the tyre business and accused each other of stealing customers.

The shooting was the culmination of a series of incidents including an apparent arson attack and a dispute over a sign that led to the police being called.

The antipathy escalated until Suleman plotted the killing with the help of accomplices. His central role became clear when security camera footage was found to show him standing outside his tyre workshop in a prime spot to watch the shooting unfold.

The car used for the shooting drove past the tyre workshop three times before Raja, 33, opened fire. But the bullets hit a window and then Hachem, the court was told.

Suleman, Raja and five other accomplices were found guilty of Hachem’s murder, and of the attempted murder of Mr Khan, after a trial at Preston Crown Court, Lancashire. They will be sentenced on Thursday.

“We must not forget that these convictions will not bring Aya back. Her family continues to mourn her loss,” said Detective Chief Inspector Zoe Russo, of Lancashire police.

“Aya was a remarkable and much-loved 19-year-old woman.”

Updated: August 4th 2021, 2:29 PM