Drugged-up hitmen found guilty of murdering schoolboy in bungled raid
TWO bungling hitmen who stabbed an innocent schoolboy to death by mistake were found guilty of his murder today.
Ben Hope, 39, and Jason Richards, 38, both from Cardiff, were each paid £1,000 in "blood money" to murder a middle-aged family man who owed money to a shady businessman.
The "hit" went tragically wrong when the balaclava-clad killers, who were high on drugs, went to the wrong address in Roath, Cardiff, in April 2010, and murdered teenager Aamir Siddiqi by mistake.
Aamir, 17, was hacked down on the doorstep of his home. His frantic parents Iqbal and Parveen Siddiqi fought to save their son but were knifed in turn by the killers, who let out chilling howls.
Hope and Richards both denied murdering Aamir and two separate counts of the attempted murder of his parents.
They were convicted unanimously of all charges a day after the jury retired at Swansea Crown Court.
The family of murdered Aamir let out a small whoop of joy as the guilty verdicts were read out in court today.
Trial judge Mr Justice Royce then adjourned sentencing until next Friday so that he can listen at length to both sides before setting a minimum jail term.
He told Hope and Richards: "It is inevitable that there is a life sentence and it is inevitable that there will be a very substantial minimum term."
He then turned to the jury of seven men and five women and thanked them for their efforts during the trial.
"This has been a very substantial demand on your time. You have discharged your duty with great care."
He added that he was exempting them from jury service for the next 25 years.
Speaking on the courthouse steps on behalf of the family, Aamir's sister, Umbareen Siddiqi, 33, paid tribute to her murdered brother.
"Today's guilty verdict is the right one and as a family we are both delighted and relieved," she said.
"On the 11th of April 2010, a house which was previously filled with love and laughter was brutally destroyed by the callous, vicious attack on our parents and our brother.
"Within seconds our lives changed for ever.
"The world has moved on in almost three years since the murder but for us the attack is as fresh as if it happened yesterday."
"Aamir was a beautiful person with a bright future. If he was still with us he would be looking forward to turning 21 this year and completing his law degree," said Ms Siddiqi.
"He was the heartbeat of our family but his warmth, love, affection and humour touched many many more people."
She added: "We would like to thank South Wales Police and the Crown Prosecution Service for their tireless efforts in this case.
"A special thanks goes to the wonderful ladies of Victim Support, who have volunteered hours of emotional as well as practical support, often in very difficult circumstances.
"We would also like to thank the wider community of Cardiff and the wonderful tributes paid to Aamir. We will always appreciate the love and support of our friends and family for being there throughout this time.
"We thank those strangers who, in the immediate aftermath of the murder, showed bravery and courage in their attempts to help Aamir and my parents. Though we may never meet you, we will be forever grateful.
"We are pleased today that justice has finally been done and we can finally start to deal with the reality of losing Aamir."
Afterwards, Catrin Evans, of the Crown Prosecution Service, Wales, paid tribute to the murdered teenager.
"Aamir's life was cruelly taken from him in a brutal knife attack committed by Jason Richards and Ben Hope. At the same time, they inflicted very serious injury on Aamir's parents, as they tried to protect their son," she said.
"The prosecution team has worked very hard on what has been a lengthy and very complex case, founded on an exemplary investigation by South Wales Police.
"The City of Cardiff has extensive CCTV coverage and there is no doubt that CCTV evidence, together with telephony and forensic evidence, has been a major factor in the successful prosecution of this case.
"I would like to thank everyone who has supported the prosecution case. Each statement and every piece of testimony has played its part in the conviction of these two dangerous and violent criminals.
"Whilst Aamir's assailants have been brought to justice, we are acutely aware that nothing can make up for the loss felt by those close to him.
"Aamir's family have shown remarkable dignity and fortitude throughout a lengthy criminal justice process and our thoughts remain with them."
Detective Superintendent Paul Hurley, of the South Wales Police Specialist Crime Investigations Team, said: "Aamir Siddiqi was a kind and talented young man who had a bright future ahead of him.
"He continues to be sorely missed by his family and all those fortunate to have known him.
"Despite being left totally devastated at losing their beloved son and brother in such tragic circumstances, Aamir's loving family have shown tireless strength and remarkable dignity throughout this ordeal.
"The investigation team was overwhelmed not only by their support but also that of the community who came forward with information and played an invaluable role during such as complex inquiry.
"South Wales Police would like to thank Aamir's family for their support, all the prosecution witnesses, and the community for ensuring the successful outcome here today at Swansea Crown Court."