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Jail for men in “murder by Whatsapp” case

The two men who murdered 48 year old Abdul Hadi Arwani (pictured), a builder by trade who was also an Imam from Acton, have been sent to jail for life, with an order that they serve a minimum of 32 years. The pair – 63 year old Khalid Rashad of Monks Park, Wembley, and 38 year old Leslie Cooper of Nightingale Road, Brent – had been found guilty of murder at Kingston Crown Court on 4th February, but reporting restrictions have only now been lifted as a separate trial has now concluded.

Earlier this year the Court heard that Rashad and Arwarni had jointly purchased the An Noor Cultural and Community centre on Church Road, Acton, but there had then been a dispute over ownership of the property which was due to be settled in Court in July last year. Before the hearing, Rashad persuaded Cooper to help him murder Arwani.

Cooper lured Arwani to Havenwood, Wembley, on 7th April last year by pretending he was a man called John who wanted to engage him to do some building work. Arwani drove to the meeting and then took Cooper on to Greenhill, Wembley. Arwani parked the car, whereupon Cooper shot him several times. Cooper’s girlfriend collected him and drove him away from the scene.

Just over an hour after he had met his killer in Havenwood, Arwani’s body was found, still in the parked car in Greenhill, by a member of the public, who called the emergency services. Paramedics attended but pronounced Arwani dead at the scene.

Police arrested Cooper just five days later. A sub-machine gun and ammunition were found in his home and forensic analysis showed that he had handed the weapons. Further forensic analysis found traces of gunshot residue on the front passenger seat of Cooper’s girlfriend’s car.

Police arrested Rashad two days later. They examined his phone and were able to retrieve deleted Whatsapp messages which incriminated him.

Both Cooper and Rashad were sentenced to life in prison on the basis that they must serve at least 32 years. Cooper was also sentenced to give years in prison for possession of the sub-machine gun, two and a half years for possession of a silencer for the weapon and two years for possession of ammunition for it. The weapons related sentences are to run concurrently with the murder sentence.

On 19th October, Rashad was found guilty of possessing an explosive substance for an unlawful purpose and of two counts of possessing ammunition for a firearm without a certificate. The substances were found after his arrest in the murder case, when detectives searched his property. The trial of these charges took place at the Old Bailey and Rashad was sentenced to ten years imprisonment, to run concurrently with the sentence for murder.

Mr Arwani’s family released the following statement: “Abdul Hadi Arwani was a loving husband, father and friend to the community. He was motivated by the desire to help others, no matter their race, religion or status. He was an inspiration to all and without a doubt one of the kindest people you could ever hope to know. When we were told of Abdul’s death last year, we were absolutely devastated and time has done nothing to reduce the sheer pain of losing him in such a brutal and calculated way.

“To this day, we cannot comprehend why anyone would wish harm to such a peaceful, well-loved person. While Abdul is no longer with us, we will never forget his smile, his positive outlook or the fantastic things that he did for us and the community. He will remain in our hearts, inspiring us to embrace others in the way that he did so wonderfully.”

Commander Mak Chisty, Head of Engagement at the Met Police, thanked the investigating team for the hard work that saw the killers convicted and sentenced and the wider community for their support and help. Ealing Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Paul Martin, also thanked the community and paid tribute to Mr Arwani.



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