The parents of murdered Aya Hachem say their dreams for their “role model” daughter were “crushed into pieces” by her killers.
The 19-year-old Lebanese-born law student was in the wrong place at the wrong time when she was mistakenly gunned down in a drive-by-shooting in Blackburn, Lancashire, last May.
Her mother, Samar Salame, said Aya’s dream was to help victims and the oppressed as a lawyer, and that her family had all looked forward to her eventual graduation day at Salford University.
Her father, Ismail Hachem, said he once said to his daughter that she would become prime minister.
On Thursday, as seven men were sentenced to life imprisonment for the botched attack, Aya’s parents told Preston Crown how their hopes and dreams for their daughter had been shattered.
In 2010, Mr Hachem fled violence in Lebanon after he was persecuted for being a member of the army. His family joined him in the UK the following year amid fears for their lives.
They were moved around the country before they finally settled in Blackburn, where they lived a quiet and peaceful life as Aya and her siblings flourished.
In victim impact statements read out to the court, Aya’s mother said: “We came from a quiet village to England for a safer and more secure life to allow our children to be the best they could be.
“Aya’s dream was to help victims and the oppressed. We all dreamt of her graduation day.
“She was studying law at Salford University. She had completed her first year and sat on the board of the Children’s Society, resulting in her being appointed as one of the trustees. She was even involved in an event hosted by a MP on the effects of cyberbullying on young people.
“The day of her murder I sent her to buy groceries during Ramadhan. How can I live with myself and the guilt I feel?
“Not knowing that day I would never see her beautiful smile or hear her warm laughter ever again.
“How can we continue the imperfect life that is full of emptiness, loss and pain?
“Almost a year has gone by since my little girl was murdered in such horrific circumstances,” Mrs Salame added.
“We fled our country to seek security and safety. We didn’t find this. They have taken a piece of my soul and killed my dreams and crushed them into pieces.”
Mr Hachem said his daughter was “a shining star in our lives”.
He said: “Aya was destined to do well in life, and I once told her she would be the prime minister and I believed she would be. So did she.
“Not only was she our daughter but she was a sister and a role model. She loved children and would do so much for other people.
“The day that Aya was murdered is a day that they didn’t just kill Aya, they killed her whole family. All our hopes and dreams we had are gone.
“We will never see her graduate, get married and have a family of her own. Without Aya we have no life.”