Three teenagers guilty of the daylight murder of eighteen-year-old Azaan John Kaleem in Luton in March have been jailed for a total of 52 years, with a fourth also jailed for manslaughter, bringing the total sentence to 63 years.
At an Old Bailey hearing earlier today, the following were sentenced:
- An 18-year-old man from Luton, who spearheaded the attack, to life imprisonment, serving a minimum of 18 years, for murder. He was also sentenced to a further two years' imprisonment, to run concurrently, for possession of a bladed article. He cannot be named due to legal reasons.
- Harrison Searle, 18, of Derwent Road, Luton, thought to have delivered the final blow, to 16 years’ imprisonment for murder.
- An 18-year-old man from Luton, who also cannot be named due to legal reasons, to life imprisonment, serving a minimum of 18 years, for murder.
- Reece Bliss-McGrath, 20, of Exton Avenue, Luton, who was found not guilty of murder but convicted of manslaughter, to 11 years’ half to be served in custody and half on license.
Azaan, affectionately known as AJ, died from the stab wounds he received after the group rounded on him while he was walking with his girlfriend and friend after they had left a funeral.
He did not retaliate throughout the 22-second attack, despite being stabbed multiple times and hit with what experts believe to be a knuckle duster.
The three guilty of murder had all denied the charges and also 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.
The incident occurred in daylight on Thursday, 22 March, on Hartsfield Road at around 5.20pm.
Searle, and the two others, surrounded the victim after leaving a car driven by Bliss-McGrath, and undertook a relentless assault, which left Azaan, who had also been carrying a knife, bleeding profusely on the floor.
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.
Azaan was given treatment by emergency services at the scene, but succumbed to his injuries in hospital two days later, due to fatal wounds to the chest.
Despite Azaan's family requesting his organs be made available for donation, the need for police to retain his body as evidence meant that none of his working organs could be released, despite his heart being described by doctors as ‘as strong as an ox’.
In the aftermath of the incident, a murder investigation was launched by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit.
The five who stood trial were subsequently interviewed by investigators over the course of the following week, and then charged.