United Kingdom

'Hired hitman' admits gunning down 19-year-old as she shopped in botched drive-by execution

A 'hired' hitman accused of shooting a 19-year-old woman has changed his plea mid-trial and admitted killing her. 

Aya Hachem was shot in the chest by a gunman in a passing car as she shopped near her home in Blackburn, Lancashire on May 17 last year.  

It was previously heard that the shooting was the result of a long-running feud between the owners of two rival tyre companies and that the law student was 'in the wrong place at the wrong time'. 

Aya Hachem was shot from a passing car as she shopped near her home in Blackburn

Preston Crown Court previously heard she was 'in the wrong place at the wrong time'

Zamir Raja, one of eight people on trial at Preston Crown Court accused of murder admitted manslaughter after initially denying his involvement. 

Despite the 33-year-old's change in plea, the prosecution will continue to push for a murder conviction.   

The prosecution alleges that shooting was the culmination of a long-running dispute between Feroz Suleman, the owner of RI Tyres and Pachah Khan, the owner of Quickshine Tyres, after the latter began to sell tyres, having previously only washed cars.  

Suleman is said to have hired hitman Zamir Raja to shoot Mr Khan or someone else at Quickshine Tyres - only for a bullet to hit Aya instead as she walked along King Street. 

She died from her injuries a short time later, having suffered an 'irreversible' cardiac arrest.

The prosecution alleges that the shot was fired by hired hitman Raja, who was sitting in the back of a Toyota Avensis being driven by Anthony Ennis.  

Footage from CCTV cameras allegedly captured Suleman stood outside his premises next door with a 'ringside seat' of the shooting he had added. 

Raja changed his plea in an appearance in court on Friday (June 18).

Speaking to the court after Raja changed his plea, prosecutor Nicholas Johnson QC said: 'As your Lordship knows, that plea is not acceptable to The Crown and we propose to continue against Mr Raja.'

Judge Mr Justice Mark Turner, addressed the jury saying: 'By way of brief explanation, the position of the prosecution is that they continue to assert that Mr Raja is guilty of murder.

Nicholas Johnson QC, prosecuting, told the court how paramedics battled to save her and she was taken to hospital but she'd suffered an 'irreversible' cardiac arrest . (Pictured, forensics examine the scene)

'As you have heard he has pleaded guilty to manslaughter but because the prosecution wish to proceed on the murder charge - as they are entitled to elect - the trial will continue.'

Mr Johnson had previously told the court that Suleman was the 'organiser of the whole thing' while Abubakr Satia sourced the car used in the shooting. 

Uthman Satia and his girlfriend Judy Chapman acted as a getaway drivers for Raja and Ennis, while Kashif Manzoor ensured the vehicle was running properly. 

The prosecution alleges that Ayaz Hussain acted as a link between Suleman and gunman Raja. 

Suleman, 40, Manzoor, 26, Hussain, 35, Satia, 32, all from Blackburn, Ennis, 31, of Partington, SSatia, 29, and Ms Chapman, 26, both of Great Harwood, all deny murder. 

Raja, of Stretford also denies murder. 

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

The trial continues.  

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