Detectives investigating the murder of Aya Hachem in Blackburn have arrested three more people.
Two men aged 31 and 35 were arrested yesterday on suspicion of murder and a man aged 29 was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.
This brings the total number of people arrested to six after three men, aged 39, 33 and 36 from Blackburn, were arrested on suspicion of murder on Monday. They remain in custody.
Police launched a major investigation after Aya, 19, was shot in broad daylight on Sunday as she was out shopping close to a Lidl supermarket in Blackburn.
Before she was fatally shot, a light silver/ green Toyota Avensis drove past Aya. Shots were fired from the vehicle and tragically one of them struck and killed her. Officers do not believe she was the intended target of the attack.
Senior Investigating Officer, Det Supt Andy Cribbin, from Lancashire Constabulary’s Force Major Investigation Team, said: “While we have now arrested a number of people as part of this investigation our enquiries are very much on-going and we continue to have a large team of officers and staff working around the clock to find out who was responsible for Aya’s death. Our determination to get justice for her family remains undimmed. Our thoughts are very much with Aya’s loved ones and her family are being supported by specially trained officers.
“I would like to thank those who have come forward to assist the investigation so far and I would continue to ask that anyone who has any information, however insignificant they may think it is, to get in touch. This is an absolutely tragic loss of a young life and we need to find out what happened – you may hold the key to help us do that so please don’t hesitate to contact us.
“We know a number of videos of the incident are on social media and it is important that if people are aware of any footage that they formally report this to us if they haven’t already done so as they are potential evidence. We would also ask people, even if they are well intentioned, not to share these videos out of respect for Aya and her family.
“Similarly, I would urge people not to speculate online about the cause of or motivation for the incident and to instead share what they know with us, as their information could prove vital.”
Any information or video footage can be sent in to us via the major incident portal here. And anybody with any other information is asked to get in touch on 101, quoting log number 0412 of May 18th, or anonymously via independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online at crimestoppers-uk.org.
Meanwhile, tributes have been paid to the “wonderful” and “intelligent” University of Salford law student.
Diane Atkinson, who was Aya’s head teacher at Blackburn Central High School, told the BBC: “Aya fled a war-torn zone (Lebanon) as a refugee and came to the UK looking for a better life. She arrived with very little English and was soon inducted with BCHS, as we call ourselves, the family, and Blackburn.
“And she was a very, very intelligent young lady who very, very quickly picked up the command of English and worked incredibly hard to become the very, very best person she could be.
“It’s very tragic and this weekend, as a community, we have been very saddened and devastated at her loss and such a waste of a wonderful, wonderful young lady who had so much to offer and had such great aspirations to help other people.”
The Children’s Society also paid tribute to Aya who was one of its young trustees.
Mark Russell, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of one of our young trustees, Aya Hachem. She was a truly remarkable young woman, and an inspiring voice for children and young people. Our thoughts are with her family at this awful time.”
In other related news, a crowdfunding page set upon in Aya’s name has been deleted after it emerged that it was set upon without the family’s permission.
The Just Giving page by Hannan Qazi from East London had raised over £35,000 to build a mosque in Niger. It was one of several pages set up in Aya’s memory without the family’s approval.
Across social media, there has been an outpouring of shock and sympathy for the family, but the controversy over fundraising pages has also led to a Twitter row after a few people withdrew donations after discovering her family were Shia.
The social media row has also been condemned by many who say it is disrespectful to a grieving family.