Student Aya Hachem in ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ when shot dead, jury hears

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A law student was “in the wrong place at the wrong time” when she was shot dead in the street amid a feud between two neighbouring tyre firm owners, a court has heard.

“Unlucky” passer-by Aya Hachem, 19, was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Blackburn, Lancashire, on the afternoon of May 17 last year.

The incident was the culmination of a long-running dispute between Feroz Suleman, the owner of RI Tyres, and Pachah Khan, the proprietor of Quickshine Tyres, a jury at Preston Crown Court was told.

Opening the case on Thursday, prosecutor Nicholas Johnson QC said: “The bad blood between the men had been building over a period of time and it got to the extent that a plan was hatched to kill Mr Khan and/or someone else at Quickshine Tyres.

“What happened was planned in detail and involved many people.

“The prosecution alleges that each of the eight people in the dock played their part.

“At 3pm on Sunday May 17, Aya Hachem was shot dead whilst walking along King Street in Blackburn.

“She was shot by Zamir Raja who was sitting in the back of a Toyota Avensis being driven by Anthony Ennis.

“Raja was a hitman brought in from south Manchester to do a job.

“He fired two shots from the car which was being driven past Quickshine Tyres.

“Raja’s intended target, or one of his intended targets, was Pachah Khan.

“Zamir Raja’s first shot hit one of the windows of Quickshine, the second hit Aya Hachem.

“Aya had no connection to either Mr Khan, his business, Zamir Raja, or anyone else in this case.

Lebanese-born law student Aya Hachem
Lebanese-born law student Aya Hachem, 19, was shot dead in the street in Blackburn last May (Lancashire Police/PA)

“She was simply unlucky.

“She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Suleman, 40, of, Blackburn; Raja, 33, of Stretford, Greater Manchester; Ennis, 31, of Partington, Greater Manchester; Kashif Manzoor, 26, of, Blackburn; Ayaz Hussain, 35, of Blackburn; Abubakr Satia, 32, of Blackburn; his brother Uthman Satia, 29, of Great Harwood; and Judy Chapman, 26, of Great Harwood, all deny murder.

All eight have also pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of Mr Khan.

The trial is estimated to last up to 10 weeks.

Mr Johnson said the feud started in early 2019 when Quickshine began selling tyres next door to RI after previously restricting itself to washing cars.

He said: “Initially, incidents between the businesses that came to the notice of the police were relatively petty. They amounted to little more than arguments between the staff of the competing businesses and attempts to tout or steal customers from each other by sometimes offering cheaper prices literally over the wall.”

Matters deteriorated on December 3 of that year when someone set fire to RI Tyres in King Street in the early hours of the morning, said the prosecutor.

He said: “The individuals involved in starting the fire have not been identified. For all we know it may have been someone who had no connection to either of the two businesses. What matters is that Feroz Suleman was adamant with the police that it was Pachah Khan who was responsible for trying to burn his business down.

“Not long after that, attempts were made to mediate a resolution brokered by the police from time to time. Both sides agreed there needed to be a physical barrier or partition erected between the two premises but inevitably they could not agree either as to the form that partition should take or who was to pay for it. And so the problems rumbled on.”

On May 1 last year, said the prosecutor, Suleman called the police and reported Pachah Khan had prevented workmen from entering Quickshine’s yard to finish putting up a new sign for RI Tyres.

It was reported that Mr Khan had threatened to fetch a machete from his car if the workmen came on to his premises, the court heard.

Mr Johnson said: “On the other hand, Mr Khan told the police that Feroz Suleman had told him they would finish his business off, burn his premises down, assault him and kill him.

“By early May 2020, a serious plan had been hatched by these defendants to shoot someone at Quickshine Tyres. It was a plan that involved many people – each playing an important and significant part. It involved sourcing an expendable car and an assassin from out of the area who, they thought, would never be traced back to RI Tyres.”

Mr Johnson said Suleman was the “organiser of the whole thing” and that Abubakr Satia sourced the Avensis used in the shooting and “made sure all the key players were in the right place at the right time”.

Both Uthman Satia and his girlfriend, Chapman, acted as getaway drivers for Raja and Ennis, say the Crown, while Manzoor ensured the Avensis was running properly on the day.

The prosecutor said the Crown alleges Hussain acted as the link between Suleman and gunman Raja.

Mr Johnson will continue with his opening on Friday.