Three more arrested over killing of UK student Aya Hachem

Law student Aya Hachem, 19, was hit by a bullet fired from a vehicle near her home on Sunday in Blackburn, a town in northern England. (Supplied: Lancashire Police)
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Updated 20 May 2020

Three more arrested over killing of UK student Aya Hachem

  • Officers investigating Hachem’s death do not believe the Salford University student was the intended target

LONDON: Three more people have been arrested in connection with the shooting of a Lebanese-born teenager in the UK.

Law student Aya Hachem, 19, was hit by a bullet fired from a vehicle near her home on Sunday in Blackburn, a town in northern England.

Three men were initially arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of murder and continue to be questioned in relation to the killing.

Lancashire police said on Wednesday they had also arrested two more men on suspicion of murder, as well as another on suspicion of assisting an offender.

Officers investigating Hachem’s death do not believe the Salford University student was the intended target of the attack.

According to a post-mortem examination, she died as a result of a gunshot wound to her chest.

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Three arrested in connection with murder of Lebanese student Aya Hachem

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Lancashire Police Det. Supt. Andy Cribbin said: “While we have now arrested a number of people as part of this investigation, our inquiries are very much ongoing and we continue to have a large team of officers and staff working around the clock to find out who was responsible for Aya’s death.

“Our determination to get justice for her family remains undimmed. Our thoughts are very much with Aya’s loved ones and her family is being supported by specially trained officers.

“I would like to thank those who have come forward to assist the investigation so far and I would continue to ask that anyone who has any information, however insignificant they may think it is, to get in touch.

Lancashire Police said the vehicle used in the attack was found abandoned and recovered for forensic examination on Sunday.

“This is an absolutely tragic loss of a young life and we need to find out what happened — you may hold the key to help us do that, so please don’t hesitate to contact us,” Cribbin added.

He repeated a plea for people not to share videos of the incident online out of respect to Aya but to report them to the police. He also asked people not to speculate online about the cause of or motivation for the murder, but contact police if they have any relevant information.

Hachem and her family moved as refugees to the UK from Lebanon when she was a young girl.

Her headteacher when she studied at Blackburn Central high school, Diane Atkinson, told the BBC: “She fled a war-torn zone as a refugee and came to the UK looking for a better life.

“She arrived with very little English and was soon inducted with BCHS, as we call ourselves, the family, and Blackburn. And she was a very intelligent young woman who quickly developed a command of English and worked incredibly hard to become the best person she could be.”

Hachem’s family released a statement expressing their “devastation” at her death, and said they will wait for the police investigation to end before taking her body back to Lebanon.


“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

Updated 31 May 2020

“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

  • Troops can go in ’very quickly,’ Trump says

CHICAGO: The firestorm of protest, arson and looting that has consumed the US for five days began at the counter of an Arab American grocery store.

Staff working for Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, the owner of Cup Foods, called Minneapolis police after George Floyd, 46, twice tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase.

Officers who arrested Floyd held him to the ground with a knee on his neck, as he pleaded that he could not breathe. He lost consciousness and died later in hospital. One officer has been charged with third-degree murder and further charges are expected.

“What took place outside … was not in our hands,” Abumayyaleh told US TV. “The murder and execution was something done by the police, and it was an abuse of power. The police brutality needs to stop.”

Abumayyaleh said he knew Floyd as a customer, and as someone who was always pleasant. He did not find out until the following morning that the man had died. “We were all outraged,” he said, and Floyd “may not have even known that the bill was counterfeit.”

The store owner and his sons, Samir, Adam and Mahmoud, have gone into hiding in the face of a wave of threats against them on social media. They took down their store’s Facebook page and its landline phone has been disconnected.

Minneapolis has more than 50 Arab- and Muslim-owned stores mostly north of where the incident occurred, all operating under statewide COVID-19 restrictions. Arab store owners said they feared speaking out publicly about the incident.

An unidentified man who answered the phone at one Arab-owned store told Arab News that both the killing of Floyd and vandalism against businesses “is wrong.”

Since Floyd died last Tuesday, protesters have vandalized, looted and burned down more than 200 stores in Minneapolis. On Friday and Saturday, the violence spread to New York, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte North Carolina.

In Minnesota, protesters maintained a daily vigil in front of the Cup Foods store at 3759 Chicago Avenue, painting walls and the street with murals and graffiti in memory of Floyd. After four nights of confrontations in the city, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz activated the state’s national guard on Saturday for the first time since the Second World War.

US President Donald Trump said troops could be deployed if local authorities requested their help. “We could have our military there very quickly,” he said.