Alleged robbery ringleader as guilty of murder ‘as if pulled trigger’ – court

The alleged ringleader of an armed robbery which saw Pc Sharon Beshenivsky shot dead is guilty of her murder “as surely as if he pulled the trigger himself”, prosecutors have told a jury.

Unarmed Pc Beshenivsky and her colleague Pc Teresa Milburn were shot at point-blank range as they responded to the raid at Universal Express travel agents in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in November 2005.

Leeds Crown Court has heard a total of seven men were involved in carrying out the robbery, with alleged mastermind Piran Ditta Khan the last to face trial almost two decades on.

In his closing speech to jurors on Friday, prosecutor Robert Smith KC said the three men who went into Universal Express armed with guns and a knife were ruthless, dangerous, violent and had “no regard for human life”.

He said it would have been obvious to Khan “what sort of men these were and what they were capable of”.

Khan has claimed the owner of Universal Express, Mohammad Yousaf, owed him £12,000 and that debt collector Hassan Razzaq offered to help him “get his money back” after the pair met through a business associate.

Mr Smith said: “It is obvious the defendant was not only aware these three men were going to commit robbery at Universal Express, but that he planned it.

“He provided the information to the other six men about how it should be committed and, on the way past the premises for the last time that afternoon, he gave the order for it to be carried out.”

The court has heard Khan was the only one of the robbers who was familiar with Universal Express after using them to send money to family in Pakistan.

The defendant claimed Mr Yousaf, who has since died, “lost his trust” after £12,000 of his money “went missing” in 1996, and told jurors he never used the business after that.

Mr Smith said Khan had portrayed himself as an “unfortunate victim of circumstances with no knowledge that firearms were being carried”.

Piran Ditta Khan appearing at Leeds Crown Court
Piran Ditta Khan was appearing at Leeds Crown Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

The prosecutor said Khan’s evidence had been “exposed over the last few days as thoroughly dishonest”.

He told the court the robbery was “carefully planned” and that Khan was “aware these men were carrying loaded firearms and deliberately encouraged them to do so”.

Mr Smith said Khan and the other robbers intended to “at least inflict serious bodily harm to anyone who stood in their way”.

He was therefore guilty of murder “as surely as if he pulled the trigger on that pistol himself”, Mr Smith said.

He told the court that Khan’s claim of being defrauded of £12,000 was “entirely false”, with the aim of “attempting to lend some credence to the reason why he has been proved to be present in Bradford at the time of the robbery and murder”.

Leeds Crown Court
The hearing at Leeds Crown Court was told the robbery was ‘carefully planned’ (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

The day before the robbery, they travelled up again to a “safe house” in Leeds where they spent the night.

Mr Smith reminded the jury of the evidence of Francois Baron, who was working in the house at the time and described hearing one of the robbers, Muzzaker Shah, asking Khan: “Uncle, is it safe?” Khan was said to have replied: “Yes, it’s safe. Genuine.”

Jurors heard Shah asked: “How much can we get?” Khan allegedly replied: “Minimum £50,000, maximum target 100 grand.”

Mr Smith asked jurors to compare this with the evidence of Universal Express staff, who said the robbers had asked for £100,000, and then £50,000.

Khan denies murder, two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon. He has pleaded guilty to robbery.

The trial continues.

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