Two found guilty of murdering man found dying in van

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Two men have been found guilty of murdering a father of three found dying in the back of a van.

Shaleem Amar, 33, had been attacked with lump hammers and was bleeding profusely from a wound to his head when police found him lying in a rubble bag, covered in sand, in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in November last year.

A jury of six men and six women at Reading Crown Court found Tom Johnston, 25, and Shaun Matthews, 56, guilty by majority verdicts yesterday after deliberating for more than 22 hours, following a six-week trial.

Johnston’s brother Ben, 27, and their father Robert Derek Johnston, 57, were found guilty last week. The Johnstons, all from Pampisford, Cambridgeshire, and Matthews, from Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire, will be sentenced today.

Mr Amar, a business associate of Johnston senior, was attacked in the kitchen of his rented luxury home.

Officers, who followed the four men after they drove off from Mr Amar’s home in their white van, found him mortally wounded.

When the vehicle was pulled over on November 17 last year, officers noticed the men’s clothing was covered in blood, but one claimed he was a decorator and the substance was red paint.

It was some time later, and after an initial search of the back of the van, that Mr Amar was found in the rubble bag, which had been covered with clothes and blankets. He was pronounced dead at the roadside.

Blood-stained hammers were found in the footwell of the van.

While there was no clear motive, jurors were told, Johnston senior and Mr Amar were partners in a fraudulent business which carried out complicated paper trail VAT fraud, claiming VAT on goods it “sold” but that did not actually exist.

Johnston senior had denied murder but told the jury he killed Mr Amar, and that he acted in self-defence because he feared he would be shot after a row over money.

The court was told that Mr Amar’s wife Shajiba, who was living at a different address at the time, drove to the rented property at 12.50pm on the afternoon of the murder.

She unwittingly walked past the van in which her husband lay dying as she walked into the property in order to lock up, having been told by Matthews and the Johnstons he had gone to collect someone from the airport.

The van left the property and was stopped by police a short time later. The men were arrested on suspicion of assault, but Tom Johnston and his father ran off before they could be handcuffed, and were detained a short while later.

It was not until 1.53pm an officer noticed the rubble bag was moving and called for help from his colleagues. Mr Amar was pulled out but died despite the efforts of paramedics and an off-duty nurse who tried to save him.

Forensic examinations later found all four men had Mr Amar’s blood on their clothing.

Following the verdict, Mrs Amar described her husband’s murderers as “evil and barbaric” men who turned her life into a nightmare.