Two bungling hitmen who stabbed an innocent schoolboy to death by mistake have been found guilty of his murder.
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, on a Sunday afternoon 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 fought to save their son but were knifed by the killers, who let out chilling howls before fleeing.
Hope and Richards both denied murdering Aamir and two separate counts of the attempted murder of his parents but were convicted unanimously of all charges at Swansea Crown Court yesterday.
Richards, a career criminal and drug addict, had claimed that he was himself an innocent victim of mistaken identity, alleging an unnamed Somali Muslim then living in Sheffield was brought to Cardiff for the express purpose of murder.
He admitted knowing the Cardiff businessman who instigated the contract killing, but insisted he was unaware of the plot and had only done the man a favour by allowing the Somali to stay at his address on the weekend of the murder, and providing Hope with a change of clothing after he had arrived at his home with blood on his clothes.
Hope, an addict whom prosecutors said went about the murder with “staggering incompetence”, later disposed of the blood-stained clothes and during the trial said he bled on them due to a badly injected batch of heroin.
But he had left behind a catalogue of clues to his involvement, having driven a stolen Volvo he had often used to flee the scene, which after it was abandoned was found to be covered in his fingerprints and his victim’s blood.
A widespread public appeal for witnesses by the police prompted a local shop owner to submit CCTV footage – resulting in two neighbourhood officers immediately identifying Hope and Richards.
Officers then embarked on a massive trawl of CCTV and mobile phone data to come up with the evidence that would bring the pair to court.
Hope and Richards displayed no emotion as the verdict was delivered and will be sentenced next week.
Speaking after yesterday’s hearing, Aamir’s father said: “Since these verdicts we feel that justice has been done. We do not want revenge, or to feel bad towards anybody, but when someone has done something so bad they should be punished.”
But Mr Siddiqi added: “With his departure life has become very empty and somewhat meaningless. Aamir was everything in my life.”
His wife Parveen added: “Aamir was a boy that everybody thought well of. He was bright and polite. The day Aamir was murdered he had just asked if I wanted tea.”
Umbareen Siddiqi, 33, the teenager’s sister, paid tribute to her brother outside court, describing the attack on him as “callous and vicious”.
She added: “The world has moved on in almost three years since the murder but for us it is as fresh as if it happened yesterday.
“Aamir was a beautiful person with a bright future. He was the heartbeat of our family but his warmth, love, affection and humour touched many many more people.”
Detective Superintendent Paul Hurley said: “Aamir’s loving family have shown tireless strength and remarkable dignity throughout this ordeal.”