UK

Robbery mastermind found guilty of murdering Pc Sharon Beshenivsky

Piran Ditta Khan has been convicted almost 20 years after Pc Sharon Beshenivsky was killed while interrupting a raid.

Piran Ditta Khan, left, was convicted almost 20 years after Pc Sharon Beshenivsky was killed
Piran Ditta Khan, left, was convicted almost 20 years after Pc Sharon Beshenivsky was killed Piran Ditta Khan, left, was convicted almost 20 years after Pc Sharon Beshenivsky was killed (West Yorkshire Police/PA)

The mastermind of an armed robbery that ended in a police officer being shot dead has been found guilty of her murder.

Piran Ditta Khan has been convicted almost 20 years after Pc Sharon Beshenivsky was killed while interrupting a raid at family-run Universal Express travel agents in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in November 2005.

She and her colleague Pc Teresa Milburn, who were both unarmed, were shot at point-blank range by one of the three men who had just carried out the robbery as he emerged from the door of the business.

Almost two decades on, Khan is the last of the seven men involved in the robbery to be convicted.

The 75-year-old flew to Pakistan two months after Pc Beshenivsky’s death and remained at liberty there until he was arrested by Pakistani authorities in January 2020 and then extradited to the UK last year.

Prosecutors said former takeaway boss Khan was the group’s ringleader and, although he did not leave the safety of a lookout car during the raid, played a “pivotal” role in planning it and knew that loaded firearms were to be used.

They told jurors this made him guilty of PC Beshenivsky’s murder “as surely as if he had pulled the trigger on that pistol himself”.

He was the only one of the group who was familiar with Universal Express and had used them in the past to send money to family in Pakistan, the court heard.

Khan told jurors he had no knowledge that a robbery was going to be carried out, or that weapons were going to be taken.

He claimed the business’s owner, Mohammmad Yousaf, owed him £12,000 and that debt collector Hassan Razzaq offered to get his money back after the pair met through a business associate.

Khan said he thought the men Razzaq sent would “intimidate” the staff at Universal Express, or at worst, “slap them”.

Prosecutor Robert Smith KC said Khan’s claim of being defrauded was an “entirely false” attempt to explain why he was in Bradford at the time of the robbery and murder.

Piran Ditta Khan was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court of the murder of Pc Sharon Beshenivsky
Piran Ditta Khan Piran Ditta Khan was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court of the murder of Pc Sharon Beshenivsky (West Yorkshire Police/PA)

Jurors heard Khan, who was living in Enfield, London, at the time, was driven to Yorkshire by Razzaq on a reconnaissance trip five days before the raid.

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

Francois Baron, who was working on renovating the house, later told police he had heard the robbers discussing the plot in one of the bedrooms.

Mr Baron said he heard gunman 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?” and Khan replied: “Minimum £50,000, maximum target 100 grand.”

The group were said to be “elated” and “confident,” shouting: “Let’s go do it.”

Prosecutors said the three robbers who were to go into Universal Express then changed into smart clothing, telling jurors this was because Khan knew they would have to appear “respectable” in order for staff to let them in through the electronically locked door.

The exterior of the Universal Express travel agent store in Bradford
The exterior of the Universal Express travel agent store in Bradford The exterior of the Universal Express travel agent store in Bradford (West Yorkshire Police/PA)

In three cars, the group then drove in convoy to Bradford, where Muzzaker Shah and brothers Yusuf Jama and Mustaf Jama went into the travel agents posing as customers.

After initially asking about plane tickets, the three men jumped over the counter and started demanding money, striking several of the staff with their weapons, tying their hands and threatening to “shoot the youngest” if they did not hand over cash.

The group demanded £100,000, later saying they would not leave with less than £50,000, jurors heard.

Waqas Yousaf, Mohammad Yousaf’s son, told the robbers they did not have that kind of money and managed to press an alarm which alerted the police.

Pc Beshenivsky and Pc Milburn, who were about to finish their shift, responded to the alert, the trial was told.

The robbers shouted “the Feds are here” before fleeing with around £5,400, with one of them gunning down the officers as they approached the doors of Universal Express.

The interior of the Universal Express travel agents where the raid took place
The interior of the Universal Express travel agents The interior of the Universal Express travel agents where the raid took place (West Yorkshire Police/PA)

Khan was convicted of murder by a majority of 10-1 after 11 jurors deliberated for almost 19 hours over four days.

He was also found guilty of two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, also by a majority of 10-1. He was unanimously convicted of two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon.

He has pleaded guilty to robbery.

In a statement following the conviction, West Yorkshire Police Detective Superintendent Marc Bowes said: “Today as always our thoughts remain with PC Sharon Beshenivsky and her family, Sharon went to work to protect the public, she responded to a call for help alongside her colleague Teresa but tragically never came home.

“This verdict is the culmination of 18 years of hard work, tenacious grit and determination to bring Khan before the courts.”

Pc Beshenivsky, 38, who had three children and two step-children, was gunned down on her youngest daughter’s fourth birthday and had only been an officer for nine months when she died from her injuries.

Pc Milburn, who survived being shot in the chest, told police the pair “didn’t have a chance” to get away from the gunman, and that they would have run away if he had given them any warning.