Boney M singer's brother hired hitman to kill mosque rival

The brother of a Boney M singer has been jailed for life after hiring a hitman to kill his rival following a bitter dispute over control of a mosque.

Muslim convert Khalid Rashad, 63, is the brother of Liz Mitchell, lead singer in the 1970s band famous for disco hits such as Rivers of Babylon, Rasputin and Daddy Cool.

She appeared as a character witness in his trial, held in January this year, explaining how they had grown up in a large Christian family in Jamaica.

His conviction can finally be reported at the end of a second trial in which Rashad was found guilty of keeping military-grade plastic explosives and rounds of ammunition at his home, yards from Wembley Stadium.

Rashad's rival, Abdul Hadi Arwani, 48, was found slumped in the driver's seat of his VW Passat in a street in Wembley, North London, with the engine still running and a bullet wound in his chest in April last year.

There was speculation the Muslim preacher may have been murdered by a Syrian hitman when it emerged that he had been a vocal opponent of the regime of Bashar al Assad.

But police identified the killer as Leslie Cooper, 38, a former soldier from Harlesden, northwest London, who was also born in Jamaica and had served with the Princess of Wales Regiment in Iraq.

Detectives were able to track him down after he topped up an unregistered phone in a shop in Harlesden High Street and then went into a nearby store to top up a British Gas card with his name on it.

Officers who searched his home found a Mac-10 sub-machine gun with its magazine and the silencer still attached in a bedroom wardrobe.

"On any reading, this was a serous bit of kit," Jonathan Rees QC, prosecuting, told Kingston Crown Court.

It emerged that Cooper had been hired by Rashad, formerly known as Burnell Mitchell, who had been involved in running the An Noor Cultural Centre in Acton, West London, for 20 years.

The mosque has been investigated by MI5 after a series of incidents including one in which a suspected male terrorist escaped from the premises dressed in a burka.

It has also hosted a number of controversial speakers, including one of the sons of 'hate preacher' Abu Hamza, who is now serving life in the US after being convicted of terrorism charges.

Although there was no evidence Rashad was involved in terrorism, detectives say they are concerned that the explosives could easily have fallen into the wrong hands.

Investigators believe the rivalry between Rashad and Mr Arwani was not just about control of the mosque and that money also played a part.

This was because the premises had quadrupled in value in a decade during the London property boom and were said to be worth £3-4m.

During the explosives trial Rashad claimed he had been wooed by MI5, who wanted him to spy on the local community, but he had rejected their approaches.

Sentencing Rashad and Cooper to life in jail with a minimum of 32 years, Mr Justice Singh said the murder had been planned over a "significant period of time."

"On any view this was a shocking killing of a man in cold blood on the streets of London during the daytime," he added.

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