A GANG behind a botched 'honour' killing which claimed the life of an innocent Blackburn couple have been branded 'wicked and evil'.

After a five-week trial, it took the jury just over 90 minutes today to find four East London men guilty of the murder of Abdullah Mohammed, 41 and his wife Ayesha, 39.

One of the gang had arranged the fire to kill his married sister's lover. But the men he recruited got the wrong house and torched the Mohammed family home in London Road on October 21 last year.

Mr Mohammed, a shop owner massively respected in the community for his work as religious teacher and for charity, died that night.

His wife, described as a kind and gentle woman with a heart of gold, lost her life several days later.

The couple's two youngest children, aged nine and 14, survived the horrific fire, which was so fierce it burned the plaster off the walls.

Their eldest son Ashraf, 18, was away at university at the time.

Outside court yesterday he bravely read a statement in which he told of his 'amazing parents' and the 'empty place in our hearts which cannot be filled'. He also said the family felt other people were involved in planning the incident who he hoped would be brought to justice.

Police said they would consider any new evidence. Senior investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Neil Hunter described the gang as 'evil' and said the four men were responsible for a 'wicked' crime.

Hisamuddin Ibrahim, 21, of Shelly Avenue, Sadek Miah, 23, of Byng Street, Isle of Dogs, Mohammed Miah, 19, of Pelley Road, and Habib Iqbal, 25, of Strone Road, all from the East London area, were found guilty of two counts of murder.

The tarif will be set tomorrow but they each face life sentences.

Last week the jury was given 'protected status' after passing notes to the judge saying they felt intimidated by the behaviour of the defendants' relatives.

Judge Lord Justice Richard Henriques praised the jury for dealing with a 'demanding case' with a 'great deal of detail' and a 'spectacular number of lies with one defendant contradicting another'.

In his statement outside court Ashraf said: "No words can truly do justice to how amazing my parents were. They were really the most loving and kind and selfless people you could ever meet.

“My dad was a true gentleman who touched the hearts of many, whether young or old, rich or poor. He was an inspiration to everyone around him and an invaluable asset to the community.

"He was very passionate about charity and devoted his life to helping the unfortunate and disadvantaged.

“Those who were very close to my dad will tell you he was jolly, cheerful, extremely approachable and a great friend.

"In short he was an irreplaceable part of the family with unparalleled qualities and was loved by one and all."

Ashraf said his mum was a 'very friendly and caring lady with a heart of gold'.

He continued: "She was extremely kind and gentle and was always seen with a smile on her face.

“There isn't a day that goes by where our family doesn't remember my parents and their loss has left an empty place in our hearts which cannot be filled."

He thanked the police, fire and ambulance services, as well as the Crown Prosecution Service, barristers and the jury. He ended by saying: "Finally, the family feel that other people were involved in the planning of this incident and that one day these people will also be brought to justice.”

Mr Hunter, from Lancashire's major investigation team, said it was a 'premeditated, well planned and wicked offence committed by four evil young men'.

He said: "The despicable actions of the persons responsible have devastated a family and a community and robbed three children of the love and affection of their parents for evermore.

“I have nothing but contempt for those responsible as even faced against compelling evidence they still attempted to hoodwink the jury by telling a tissue of lies."

During the trial, the jury heard that Ibrahim had arranged the fire to kill his married sister's lover.

Hafija Gorji, 22, had been having an affair with 23-year-old Mo Ibrahim (no relation) who lived at 135 London Road.

Ibrahim gave the order to torch the lover's house, but gave the wrong door number.

Iqbal and his two friends Sadek Miah and Mohammed Junaid Miah (no relation), travelled up from East London in Sadek's dark Volkswagen Golf and started the fire in the vestibule of 175 London Road.

Their car was caught on CCTV cameras and eventually led police to the gang.

Mr Hunter said it was 'difficult to understand how people could go and commit such a heinous offence but get their intended target so tragically wrong'.

He continued: "There has been much talk during this trial that this crime was committed as the result of so-called honour. There is no honour in killing innocent people. It is murder pure and simple."

Mr Hunter said his heart went out to the three Mohammed children.

He said: "No justice can ever bring their parents back. The support network they have had has been excellent and I am sure the local community will continue to rally round them."

All four will be sentenced on at 10.30am tomorrow.

Click on the link below to read more coverage on the London Road fire