Two bungling hitmen who stabbed an innocent schoolboy to death by mistake have been told they are likely to die behind bars after a judge handed them a minimum term of 40 years.
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.
But 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.
The 17-year-old’s frantic parents, Iqbal and Parveen, fought to save their son but were knifed in turn by the killers, who let out chilling howls.
Hope and Richards – who already had a deplorable criminal record ahead of the stabbing –both protested their innocence during their four-and-a-half month trial at Swansea Crown Court. But a jury unanimously found them guilty of Aamir’s murder as well as the attempted murder of his parents.
Yesterday, in sentencing, Mr Justice Royce said he had no choice but to “significantly increase” the minimum term of 30 years the prosecution had asked for.
He said: “Aamir Siddiqi was the youngest child and only son of Sheikh Iqbal and Parveen Ahmed.
“He was a bright, gentle and courteous boy who was much loved by his family.
“He had secured a place to study law at Cardiff and his future was brimming with promise.
“He was awaiting the arrival of his Koran teacher when he rushed past his parents to open the door.
“You two (Hope and Richards) came in, wearing balaclavas and making a terrible wailing sound.
“Your attack on him was brutal, savage, callous and cruel.
“You hacked him to death in front of his parents, who fought in vain to save Aamir.
“It was simply good fortune that they were not killed. It was your intention that they should die too.
“The aggravating features of this case mean the starting point should significantly increase.
“The starting point is 40 years.
“If you die in jail, few will shed a tear and many will say it will be more than deserved.”
During their trial, the court heard that Hope and Richards had been paid by a businessman, angry over a collapsed property deal, to kill a father-of-four who lived in a neighbouring street.
But they went instead to a similar looking red brick, end-of-row house just around the corner in Ninian Road in the leafy suburb of Roath.
Aamir had run down the stairs to answer the door expecting to see his imam, who was due to give him a Koran lesson. Instead, he opened the front door in Ninian Road, Roath, to two masked killers high on heroin.
Hope and Richards wielded daggers over their heads and howled as they set upon the helpless A-level student.
The teenager desperately tried to run back into the house, but they chased him and repeatedly lashed out.
After the murder, a huge manhunt began, and the stolen Volvo car used in the crime was later found abandoned. Traces of Aamir’s blood were found in the car’s footwell, as were Hope’s fingerprints and Richards’ DNA.
Despite trying to blame one another for the killing, last week a jury reached a unanimous guilty verdict over the murder of Aamir as well as the attempted murder of his parents.
Mr Justice Royce said he was humbled by the strength and dignity of members of Aamir’s family, who were in a packed public gallery for yesterday’s sentencing.
He said Hope and Richards were paid a “pittance” for the killing and added that their desire to get their “blood money” reflected a warped philosophy on life.
“Your concern was not with the family of Aamir but to escape and to get your money,” he added.
Mr Justice Royce added that the pair, whose paths first crossed in prison, had shown no remorse for their crimes, and singled out Richards’ “strutting arrogance” when he gave evidence.
He said there were no mitigating factors.