THE Lancashire Police has launched a manhunt after a law student, 19, was shot dead in a “shocking and senseless” attack just 100 metres from her home in Blackburn on Sunday (17).
Officers found Aya Hachem lying unresponsive outside a Lidl store on King Street, following reports of gunshots in the area.
She was rushed to a hospital, but was declared dead after a short time.
Reports said Hachem was “shot at from a car window” while she had been out to get things for her dad to break his Ramadan fast.
“This is a truly shocking and senseless killing, which has robbed a young woman of her life,” said Det Supt Jonathan Holmes, of the Force Major Investigation Team, adding that the incident was not terror-related.
“We believe a light-coloured Toyota Avensis – possibly metallic green – may have been involved in the incident. A car matching the same description has since been recovered from nearby Wellington Road, and we are now asking anybody who saw a car matching this description in either location to get in touch as soon as possible.”
Councillor Mohammed Khan OBE, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “This terrible crime, which has taken the life of an innocent young woman, has really shocked and saddened the whole community.
“We are working closely with police and we will be making sure that the family gets the support they need in this time of need.”
Calling the incident a “horrific, senseless attack”, the Asylum and Refugee Community Project in Blackburn said the victim was the “beloved eldest daughter of Samar and Ismael from Lebanon”.
“Aya, a beautiful, 19-year-old young woman from Lebanon, had just passed her second year law exams at Salford University and had a dream and ambition to study international law,” it added.
“Aya and her family are much loved in our ARC community. Our hearts and prayers are with them at this painful time especially during this holy month of Ramadan when Aya and her family were fasting.”
Children’s Society chief executive Mark Russell said Hachem was “one of our young trustees”.
“She was a truly remarkable young woman, and an inspiring voice for children and young people,” he added.
One of Hachem’s classmates from Blackburn Central High School posted a tribute on Twitter : “Aya Hachem. This is not the name I thought I’d hear today when I found out that a girl from our town has been shot and killed, simply because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“She was a smart girl, she never got involved in any of the high school drama the way the rest of us would.
“But she was friends with everybody, she was so kind and beautiful.
“And didn’t have one bad bone in her body. Whenever I spoke to her she would make me smile, the same way I am sure she made everyone else around her smile – she just had that sweet energy.
“Her mother sent her out to buy some groceries, little did she know that her daughter would not return home.
“Aya was innocent. She didn’t deserve this. She had her whole life ahead of her – ended with one bullet.”
A friend from her university, Blean Azeez, said: “What can I say, we’re still in shock. Aya was the girl who would listen to everyone and cared for everyone regardless of who asked for help.
“She would be there for us all, a true angel who walked on earth and was taken from us so, so soon.
“She had so many dreams — an international lawyer was one of the many.
“I’ve known Aya since the start of our degree. She was one of the very first friends I made in my first week of uni.
“She was smart, caring and confident. She made the library fun, the classroom more interesting and the coffee shop a vibrant place.
“Without her presence I wouldn’t know how I will survive another year at uni. She was the safe place to go to when we all had an issue.”