Lancashire

Four convicted of murder over fatal arson in Blackburn

Four men have been convicted of murder after a couple who they targeted by mistake in a so-called honour killing died in an arson attack in Blackburn.

Abdullah and Aysha Mohammed were killed when petrol was poured through their letter box and set alight.

A jury at Preston Crown Court took just 90 minutes to find Hisamuddin Ibrahim, 21, Habib Iqbal, 25, Sadek Miah, 23, and Mohammed Miah, 19, guilty.

The group's intended target lived in a house further down the street.

Ibrahim wanted to punish a man who was having an affair with his married sister, Hafija Gorji, and ordered the three other defendants to drive from London to start a fire at the man's terraced home in the early hours while he was asleep.

The target lived at 135 London Road but the trio set fire to the Mohammeds' home at 175.

Image caption Abdullah Mohammed died on the night of the fire

A week before the couple's death, Ibrahim viewed a story on the BBC Crimewatch website about an unsolved fatal blaze in Eastbourne.

The story was about a night-time arson attack on a private dwelling in which two occupants had been killed.

Mr Mohammed, 41, called 999 at about 0120 GMT on 21 October last year and told an operator there was a fire at his home and he could not breathe.

The fire spread through the hallway of the house and the smoke engulfed the upstairs of the house.

Mr Mohammed was found unconscious in his bedroom along with his wife, 39, and two of their three children.

He died that night and his wife died a week later. Their children survived.

The court heard there were no witnesses to the start of the fire. However, CCTV footage captured a vehicle circling the surrounding streets three times shortly beforehand.

Three figures were then seen to leave the car in the direction of London Road, one appearing to carry a container, before returning and then driving away with its lights off.

The vehicle, a black Volkswagen Golf registered to Sadek Miah's mother, was then driven straight back to London.

'Spectacular number of lies'

The jury was told the four men had contradicted each other's accounts in their police interviews to try to "water down" their involvement.

Mr Justice Henriques, who oversaw the six-week trial, thanked the jurors for their concentration on a "demanding case" in which they encountered a "spectacular number of lies".

Speaking after the conviction, Joanne Cunliffe, of Lancashire Crown Prosecution Service, said it was "one of the most tragic cases" she had dealt with.

"Mr and Mrs Mohammed were complete strangers to the men who have today been convicted of their murder and their three children have been orphaned in a terrible case of mistaken identity," she said.

"All four of these defendants bear equal guilt for the murders - the three men who were directly responsible for starting the fire and Hisammudin Ibrahim, who put them up to it."

Lancashire police said the murder inquiry was one of the biggest the force had undertaken. More than 100 officers and staff worked on the case.

Det Supt Neil Hunter said: "This was a premeditated, well planned and wicked offence committed by four evil young men three of whom had travelled 250 miles from their homes in London with the sole intention to kill."

The Mohammed's son, Ashraf, paid tribute to his parents after the hearing.

He said: "No words can truly do justice to how amazing my parents were. They were really the most loving, kind and selfless people you could ever meet.

His father was "an inspiration", he said, and his mother had "a heart of gold".

"Their loss has left an empty place in our hearts that can never be filled."

The men, all from east London, are due to be sentenced on Tuesday.

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