BY AMY WALKER
Aya Hachem | Credits:Lancashire Constabulary
The jury had been deliberating for less than a day before one member refused to be involved with them any longer
Moments after deliberations in the trial of Aya Hachem’s killer Louis Otway began, everything fell apart.
The trial would soon collapse completely. And see a juror applauded as they left the courtroom.
While the 42-year-old Otway, nicknamed ‘Junior’, was found guilty of the murder of the law student last week (March 29), it took two attempts to cage him.
He is now set to be sentenced for his role in a bitter tit-for-tat row between rival car washes that cost the life of Aya.
The 19-year-old was gunned down while walking to the shops. Tragically, she was near the intended target of a gang’s drive-by shooting.
The group was instead supposed to shoot car wash owner Pachah Khan.
She was simply caught in the wrong place at the wrong time as she made her way down King Street, Blackburn.
Otway was found guilty of both the murder of Ms Hachem and the attempted murder of Mr Khan following a trial which saw Suhayl Suleman cleared of the same charges.
Prosecutors had said he was involved in the plot but a jury found him not guilty.
A trial sat at Preston Crown Court during March and had to be hastily arranged after a first attempt to bring Otway to justice collapsed within a day of the jury being sent to deliberate.
With proceedings complete, LancsLive has revealed that the decision to abandon that trial came after a whistleblowing jury member raised concerns that others in the group had shown racist attitudes and were not capable of making a fair decision.
That trial started with 12 jurors but one was discharged after nine days due to ill-health.
It continued with the remaining 11, who retired to consider their verdict on the morning of day 18.
Each was given instructions which explained they must consider the evidence only and “put all prejudice aside” as they had promised when sworn in.
However, later that afternoon one juror suddenly left the retirement room and told the jury bailiff that she could no longer remain there.
After being persuaded to stay in the building, she refused to rejoin the jury and when asked her concerns, she wrote a note for the judge, Mr Justice Goose, which made reference to bullying and contained the bullet point: “Racist jury: going to be guilty no matter what.”
The juror was kept apart from the rest of the group, which had been told to stop deliberations, and basic details of the note were given to the prosecution and defence counsel.
They agreed to ask further questions about what racist remarks had been made and how many jury members were being referred to, with the answer being more than one.
Representatives of both defendants jointly applied for the jury to be discharged, arguing that their clients, who are respectively of South Asian and Afro-Caribbean ethnicity, face a biased jury whose members have expressed clear racism.
Mr Justice Goose said: “I have come to the decision that I must discharge the whole jury. The relevant facts are that two or three jurors have expressed clearly racist views as a reason to convict the defendants.” He described the single jury member’s reports as “disturbing”.
The remaining jurors were called back into the courtroom following the refusal of the runaway juror to continue and subsequent legal arguments, and told that Mr Justice Goose had “with some reluctance come to the clear conclusion that I must discharge you as the jury from this case.”
He acknowledged this was disappointing to all concerned but said it was a necessary decision and reminded them they must not discuss any aspects of the case.
The remaining juror, after being called back in separately to be thanked for her actions, received a round of applause as she left the courtroom.
The new trial took place in March and resulted in the conviction of 42-year-old Otway, of Clitheroe Road, Manchester. A total of nine people have now been convicted over the teenager’s murder.
Following Otway’s conviction, Ms Hachem’s family said: “We thank God for the justice that has been served today. To our dear beautiful angel in heaven we know you are in a better and more beautiful place. God chose you from amongst many and blessed you with martyrdom.
“We are so proud of you and we miss you so much – our lives are difficult without you. This is God’s decree and praise be to God for this. You will remain in our hearts forever.
“You loved life and despite all the struggles and barriers that we faced in this country it did not stop you contributing to your community and Charites including the Children’s Society and fundraising at Salford University where you were studying to become a barrister. You have been awarded your certificate posthumously and your name is now on the Law Society’s roll of solicitors.
“God chose you as an Angel in his heaven. Heaven is yours and may God give us the patience after your murder. We love you. We thank Detective Inspector Ian Moore and his team of dedicated police officers who worked so hard to build a strong case against the defendant who has been convicted today.
“Also, to the Crown Prosecution Service, represented by Mr. Cray KC who has presented our case so diligently We also thank Mr Justice Jacobs, who managed the court proceedings with confidence and wisdom.
“We offer thanks to the jury for their time and effort to listen for 4 weeks and to distinguish truth from falsehood, lies and honesty. Special thanks to the community of Blackburn including the many families that have offered their support in this difficult time.”