LONDON: Seven men have been convicted of murdering a Lebanese law student in Britain after she was shot in a drive-by shooting amid a dispute between rival tyre firms.
Aya Hachem, 19, was shot dead from a car in Blackburn, northern England, on May 17 last year while walking to collect groceries.
The court heard that she was “in the wrong place at the wrong time” when Feroz Suleman, 40, was orchestrating an attempt to assassinate a rival businessman.
Suleman was captured on CCTV cameras loitering outside RI Tyres to watch the shooting of Pachah Khan, who headed the neighboring Quickshine Tyres business.
Anthony Ennis, 31, drove past Khan’s premises three times with 33-year-old gunman Zamir Raja.
Their Toyota passed Quickshine Tyres for a fourth time at 3 p.m. when Raja opened fire at Khan, missing his first shot — which struck the window behind him — before firing a second round that hit Hachem.
The jury at Preston Crown Court found Suleman guilty of her murder and of the attempted murder of Khan.
Raja and Ennis were also convicted of murder and attempted murder, alongside their accomplices Kashif Manzoor, 26, Ayaz Hussain, 35, Abubakr Satia, 32, and his brother Uthman Satia, 29.
The jury found 26-year-old Judy Chapman, Uthman’s girlfriend, guilty of manslaughter, but not guilty of Khan’s attempted murder.
Hachem had recently finished her second-year law exams at the University of Salford when she was murdered. She had planned to train as a barrister after completing her studies.
Her father Ismail emigrated to Britain 10 years ago. Hachem was one of four children, and was described by her parents as “the most loyal, devoted daughter.”
Her older brother Ibrahim said her death felt like “a piece of your soul that got taken away” as he heard of the court’s decisions.
“After nearly a year and a half, they’ve got what they deserve,” he said. “They can’t hurt anyone any more. But my sister isn’t coming back. Words can’t describe the pain we’ve had to go through.”
A statement from the family welcoming the verdict said: “To our dear beautiful angel in heaven, we know you are in a better and more beautiful place.”
Hachem’s murderers will be sentenced on Thursday. Chapman is expected to be sentenced in October.