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1 November 2018, 16:26 | Updated: 1 November 2018, 16:41
Three teenagers have been found guilty of murdering Azaan John Kaleem, AJ, in broad daylight in Luton.
Azaan, 18, died from stab wounds on the 22nd of March after the group rounded on him while he was walking with his girlfriend and friend along Hartsfield Road around 5.20pm.
Azaan (pictured) did not retaliate throughout the attack despite being stabbed multiple times and hit with what experts believe to be a knuckle duster.
Harrison Searle, 18, of Derwent Road, Luton, who delivered the final blow to Azaan was found guilty of murder following a four-week trial at the Old Bailey.
Two men from Luton, aged 18 and 19, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were also convicted of murder following 59 hours of deliberations.
The 18 year-old was also found guilty of possession of a bladed article.
All three had denied murder and initially denied being at the scene at all, but later clarified their movements and involvement in the attack.
However, none were willing to admit which of them had been wielding weapons.
Reece Bliss-McGrath, 20, of Exton Avenue, Luton, was found not guilty of murder but was convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter, for his involvement in the attack.
The four will be sentenced on 17 December.
Searle and the other two convicted teenagers surrounded Azaan, after leaving a car driven by Bliss-McGrath, who then stopped further up the road while the attack took place.
The group then undertook a relentless 22-second assault, which left Azaan, who had also been carrying a knife, bleeding profusely on the floor. He was given treatment at the scene and then taken to hospital, but succumbed to his injuries two days later.
The incident occurred only minutes after Azaan had been confronted by another teenager on Crawley Green Road, a short distance away from the attack site. That boy also stood trial but was found not guilty of having involvement in the murder.
In the aftermath of the incident, a murder investigation was launched by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit.
Detective Inspector Dani Bailey, who led the investigation, said:
"This was a truly horrendous act which has not only resulted in a young man losing his life, but has left a mother and father without their only child.
This group carried out an unrelenting and brutal attack on Azaan, who offered no aggression whatsoever, right in front of his girlfriend, who will no doubt be affected for the rest of her life.
I cannot imagine the pain endured by Azaan’s family, who have been forced to sit through weeks of evidence at court, whilst conducting themselves wholly with dignity throughout. This was despite some entirely disrespectful behaviour by those in the dock. I can only hope that this conviction brings them some closure.
These young men will now face a significant sentence reflective of their actions. Knife crime is not acceptable and it isn’t something that police or the courts will tolerate. You will end up either facing justice or potentially being seriously injured yourself."
Roseann Taylor, Azaan’s mother, said:
"On the morning of 22 March, Azaan came in to my room, told me he loved me, and that he would see me later. I never for one moment imagined that he wouldn’t walk back through the door that day. It’s been a living nightmare ever since.
Azaan had an amazing personality and would light up a room wherever he went. He was full of fun and leaves a massive empty space in our lives, and as an organ donor who was stripped of the chance to help others due to his injuries, it’s not just one life that has been taken.
When the trial started I came with the intention to try my hardest to reach a place of forgiveness. I’m sad to say that the way the group has acted in court, and the complete lack of remorse they have shown, means I’ve not managed this.
Although I hope the conclusion of the court case will bring with it some closure, it won’t bring Azaan, my only child, back.
Forgiveness is for one’s self, not for the actions of others, so I continue to pray on a daily basis for god to restore peace.”