Gang jailed for kidnap and murder of Christopher Hughes
Main article content
Eight men have been jailed for a minimum of 229 years for the brutal kidnap and murder of a man from Wigan.
Christopher Hughes’ body was discovered on Tuesday 22 February 2022 by a member of the public with their dog on White Moss Road South in Skelmersdale.
His attackers, without justification, believed Christopher had committed a sexual crime and took the law into their own hands.
A post-mortem examination found that Christopher, 37, had suffered over 90 sharp force injuries to his head, neck, body and limbs, with the vast majority inflicted while he was still alive.
His body had remained undiscovered for four days following his brutal murder, which included a wide-ranging search as a high-risk missing.
A trial that began in October 2022 concluded last month with the conviction of eight men for the kidnap and murder of Mr Hughes.
They were jailed today (9 February 2023) at Liverpool Crown Court:
Erland Spahiu (13/10/1988) of White Moss Road, Skelmersdale - jailed for life with a minimum term of 35 years for murder, 12 years for kidnap to run concurrently
Curtis Balbas (01/01/1992) of Matheson Drive, Wigan - life with a minimum term of 34 years for murder, 9 years for kidnap to run concurrently
Martin Smith (02/05/1988) of Laithwaite Road, Wigan - life with a minimum term of 33 years for murder, 12 years for kidnap to run concurrently
Razgar Khader Mohammed (01/01/1982) of Plane Avenue, Wigan - life with a minimum term 27 years for murder, 12 years for kidnap to run concurrently
Alan Jaf (01/09/1970) of Ridyard Street, Wigan - life with a minimum term of 26 years for murder, 12 years for kidnap to run concurrently
Khalil Awla (01/01/1974) of Greenwood, Wigan - life with a minimum term of 26 years for murder, 12 years for kidnap to run concurrently
Dean Smeaton O’Neill-Davey (12/08/1992) of Bulteel Street, Wigan - life with a minimum term 25 years for murder, 12 years for kidnap to run concurrently
Erion Voja (18/08/2001) of Peall Road, Croydon - life with a minimum term of 23 years for murder, 10 Years for kidnap to run concurrently
A ninth man, Andrius Uzkuraitis (12/04/1995) of Holly Road, Wigan, was convicted of assisting an offender and jailed for six years.
The series of events began on the evening before Christopher's murder when the guilty men wrongly believed he had committed a sexual offence.
However, DNA evidence submitted in that investigation did not match Christopher's.
The gang - who all knew each other or were related - chose to take the law into their own hands, searching the Wigan area for hours on the evening of the Thursday 17 February 2022, eventually attending at his home address when unlawful entry was made.
The hunt continued the following day until Christopher was abducted in broad daylight, by being forced into the boot of a car and driven at speed to Skelmersdale.
It was in the vicinity of White Moss Road South that Christopher was brutally attacked and killed in act of retribution.
Later that evening the group reconvened and put a plan in place to hide Christopher’s body, with a number forming a burial party.
They were disturbed by police presence in the area on unrelated matters and abandoned their plans, and Christopher’s body remained undiscovered for several days in snowy, wet weather.
The guilty men continued to cover their tracks by destroying CCTV, changing telephones, deleting messages and disposing of the Audi used in the kidnap.
Hours of CCTV footage was recovered and painstakingly reviewed by officers who were able to discover the defendants’ activities, which have resulted in Christopher’s life being cruelly and viciously taken, leaving his family and friends devastated.
Detective Inspector Heidi Cullum, of GMP’s Major Incident Team, said: “These men took the law into their own hands and murdered Christopher Hughes.
"What they did in February last year was nothing short of atrocious.
"The work of the Major Incident Team and specialist units within GMP, along with the Crown Prosecution Service in bringing these individuals to justice, has been meticulous.
"We only hope the verdict and sentences brings some justice and comfort to his family and friends.”
Christopher's family also added their own tribute: “We would like to thank sincerely the officers of Greater Manchester Police and the North West Crown Prosecution Service for their hard work on this case over the past number of months.
"We are pleased that justice has finally been done. It will not bring Christopher back, but he will live on in our hearts forever and the memories of him we will hold dearly.”