Aamir Siddiqi murder: Family call to protect charity
The family of a student murdered by two "staggeringly incompetent" hitmen who targeted the wrong house say Victim Support services must be protected.
In 2010, Aamir Siddiqi, 17, was attacked in his Cardiff home by Jason Richards, 38, and Ben Hope, 39, who have been jailed for life.
The family spoke out ahead of planned changes to fund Victim Support.
Under the plan, murder and manslaughter cases would not be affected but support to victims of other crimes could be.
It means that families like the Siddiqis would continue to receive support but victims of other types of crime face uncertainty over the levels of support they will be offered.
Under the UK government plan, funding for supporting victims of other crimes would be decided by Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs).
They will have the power to decide if and how much victims of other types of crime should be supported.
End Quote Aamir's father Sheikh Iqbal Ahmad
Their attitude, they were callous... they completely lacked any respect for decency. Those two hurt me very badly”
Although in cases like the murder of Aamir, the level of support on offer would be unaffected by the changes, his family have spoken about how they were helped through the legal process.
"When the incident initially happened, we as a family were going through so much trauma," said Aamir's sister Miriam.
"We almost didn't know what time of day it was, what day of the week it was.
"It's only in unfortunate circumstances that you are exposed to Victim Support. Without the volunteers the legal system would be lost.
"It's an invaluable service that they've given to my parents and I'm sure other victims who have received the help would say as well."
Aamir's mother Parveen added: "I was at the weakest, weakest moment of my life. I was not able to talk or anything. Just hearing the name of my son, I would break down.'Good idea'
"This is a very, very valuable service. I would not have survived this tragic time. Now we are leading almost a normal life thanks to Victim Support."
Gwent PCC Ian Johnston says the UK government's plan is a "good idea" but there has been criticism because Victim Support is such a well-established national charity and it will no longer be the sole provider.
The UK government says the PCCs are best placed to understand the needs of victims in their force areas so it is better that they commission services locally.
But Frances Crook from the Howard League for Penal Reform said: "Most of the police and crime commissioners know nothing about victims so how do they assess which services should be funded and how they should be funded locally?"
Aamir's family would not talk about the events surrounding his murder but spoke about key moments after and during the trial where Victim Support volunteers provided help to comfort them.
"There are many moments which I can never forget," said his father Sheikh Iqbal Ahmad.
"Our first day in the court when I saw the defendants, I can't describe my emotions in words, but it was a very difficult time for me.'Laughing'
"Their attitude, they were callous. They had a very, very extraordinary attitude when the evidence was read out, witnesses were called.
End Quote Aamir's sister Miriam
I distinctly remember I walked out of court and it unnerved me at that moment but the minute I walked into the (waiting) room I burst into tears”
"They completely lacked any respect for decency. Those two hurt me very badly."
Miriam added: "One of the defendants was laughing whilst a bit of evidence was being heard and it was something to do with the crime scene.
"I distinctly remember I walked out of court and it unnerved me at that moment but the minute I walked into the (waiting) room I burst into tears.
"For other people it may not seem so important but - and I don't mean to say this in a coarse way - it was my brother's blood that they were discussing and he was someone so important to me.
"For someone to laugh at something like that is horrible."
Victim Support chief executive Javed Khan said the charity had been "delivering help and support to victims and witnesses of crime in every community across England and Wales for nearly 40 years".
"As a locally based charity, we understand the importance of delivering services which effectively meet local needs and which put the people we help first," he said.
"Ultimately, what is paramount is that victim services deliver in the best interests of victims and witnesses - they must be at the heart of any commissioning process."
Hope and Richards both denied murdering Aamir and the attempted murder of his parents but were convicted unanimously of all charges.
During their four-and-a-half-month trial, the court heard how Aamir had run down the stairs of the family home at Ninian Road in Roath, expecting to see his imam for a Koran lesson.
Instead, he was confronted by Richards and Hope, high on heroin and wearing masks.
They wielded daggers over their heads and howled as they set upon the helpless A-level student.
Aamir's parents frantically tried to help their only son. His mother leapt on the back of one of the attackers as he pursued Aamir in the dining room of their home.
His father tried to pin the other against a wall using his head. Both were stabbed in the process.
During the trial the truth emerged that Aamir's killers had carried out a contract killing on the wrong victim, in the wrong house.
Richards and Hope had been paid by a businessman, angry over a collapsed property deal, to kill a father-of-four who lived in a neighbouring street.