Christopher Hughes was murdered by the gang-of-eight (Picture: Liverpool Echo)
Eight men who mutilated and murdered a dad after wrongly believing he raped a teenager have been jailed for more than 200 years.
Christopher Hughes was bundled into the back of an Audi near Wigan, Greater Manchester, and suffered nearly 100 separate injuries after being hunted by the gang.
Curtis Balbas, Razgar Mohammed, Dean O’Neill-Davey, Alan Jaf, Khalil Awla, Erland Spahiu, Martin Smith and Erion Voja were jailed for a combined total of 229 years.
The 37-year-old’s body was discovered by a dog walker in Skelmerdale in February last year with injuries to his head, neck, body and limbs.
Liverpool Crown Court heard either a machete or a hatchet was used in a chopping motion to inflict the wounds.
The gang had plotted the attack in the mistaken belief he raped a teenage girl at knifepoint behind a post office.
The vigilantes had driven around the Worsley Hall estate in Wigan the previous evening looking for him – even visiting and entering his house.
The father to a four-year-old girl was then cornered on Almond Grove at around 4.30pm the following day, being punched to the ground and bundled into the boot of an Audi A4.
CCTV footage captured the Audi entering White Moss Road South shortly after 4.45pm and leaving 20 minutes later, with the torturous attack having occurred in the intervening period.
Some members of the gang returned to the scene to dig Mr Hughes’s grave.
But they were disturbed by the police, who happened to have been called to a crash in the vicinity, during this process.
One of the members, O’Neill-Davey was still ‘dressed in his grave digging kit’ when he was spoken to by officers.
They then attempted to cover their tracks by destroying CCTV footage, changing their phones, deleting messages and disposing of the Audi.
The car was taken to an industrial unit at Douglas Valley Mill, Standish, where it was cut into pieces and hidden away.
After he was jailed, Voja ranted at the judge, saying: ‘I know myself. I’m no murderer. I’ll get my justice one day you t***’
Sentencing, Justice Mark Wall said: ‘The sense of outrage this allegation instilled in you all became a focused search for the culprit, in order to punish him. You spent the evening hunting down the man you thought responsible.
‘It was persistent and organised. I have no doubt, had you found Mr Hughes that evening, he would have been attacked earlier than he was.
‘I have no reason to doubt she was sexually assaulted. I have seen no evidence that Mr Hughes was responsible for any assault on her.
‘You then took Mr Hughes to a quiet spot, where he was killed. The killing was brutal and, in part, sadistic.
‘The attack resulted in him receiving deep wounds and him bleeding to death.. It would have been, for Mr Hughes, both humiliating and painful.
‘He has left behind a young daughter who will grow up without knowing her father.
‘Your acts were designed to circumvent justice and ensure your suspicions prevailed over fact.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].
For more stories like this, check our news page.