Alleged mastermind in robbery that killed police officer faces murder charge

Prosecutors with a jury over an armed robbery in which a police officer was killed and another seriously injured have been held for almost 20 years before being extradited from Pakistan.

Police constable Sharon Beshenivsky was killed on 18 November 2005 when she and her colleague Pc Teresa Milburn responded to a report of a robbery at Universal Express travel agents in Morley Street, Bradford, West Yorkshire.

Prosecutor Robert Smith KC said one of the three men who had just committed the robbery shot the two officers as he left the scene before getting into a nearby car.

Jurors heard that a total of seven men were involved in the robbery, all of whom have since been convicted apart from Piran Ditta Khan.

Khan, 75, who prosecutors say planned the robbery, flew to Pakistan three months after Pc Beshenivsky’s death and remained at large there until he was arrested by Pakistani authorities and detained in January 2020 .

Mr Smith said he arrived in the UK last April following an extradition request from the British Government, and is now on trial charged with murder, two counts of possessing a firearm with intent to cause death endangerment and two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon.

PC Beshenivsky’s widower Paul watched from the public gallery as the trial took place on Tuesday.

Mr Smith told jurors that while Khan was not one of the three men who carried out the robbery, and did not shoot Pc Beshenivsky, he was “responsible for organizing this robbery knowing that loaded firearms were to be carried”.

Jurors heard that Khan did not “leave the safety” of the Mercedes SLK that was being used as a lookout car during the robbery.

But, Mr Smith said, the men who carried out the robbery “were intent on using their firearms to kill or seriously injure anyone in their path … something the defendant would have been aware of “.

“The prosecution argued that he is also guilty of murdering Sharon Beshenivsky,” said the prosecutor.

Sketch of Piran Ditta Khan at court

Piran Ditta Khan charged with murder (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Leeds Crown Court heard that as well as being travel agents, Universal Express provided a service for people living and working in the UK to transfer money to relatives’ bank accounts in Pakistan.

Mr Smith said Khan, who lived in Ilford, north London, had previously used the service and was “the only group who knew the location of the business and the inside of the premises was meant”.

The court also heard that he knew that large sums of money were kept at the premises during the day.

Jurors heard that the seven men met at a house in Leeds on the morning of the robbery, and a witness heard one of them asking Khan how much money they could expect to get.

The witness heard Khan say a minimum of £50,000 and a maximum of £100,000, Mr Smith said.

Jurors were told Universal Express staff had to let customers into the premises through a door with an electric lock.

Mr Smith said two of the men who carried out the robbery were “dressed for the occasion”, while the third was dressed in a white shirt and smart jacket.

One of them also had a laptop bag containing “at least one pistol and machine gun, both loaded”, as well as a knife and a large cable intended to “tie up a team in the premises”.

“Their behavior in dressing in this way was not by chance but the result of knowledge of how the premises were operated, in particular the need to present themselves as responsible persons to be admitted to the premises, ” said the prosecutor.

Mr Smith said Khan was the only group with this information, and told jurors the defendant had visited Universal Express five days earlier “to complete planning for the robbery”.

The court heard that on the day of Pc Beshenivsky’s death the three cars involved in the robbery – a Toyota Rav4 in which the three men carried out the robbery, the Mercedes SLK in which Khan was a passenger and a Toyota Corolla – were traveling in a convoy. and parked in various places close to the business.

Jurors were told that Pc Beshenivsky, 38, and Pc Milburn, then 37, were unarmed when they attended a robbery report and “posed no effective threat to the three men”.

Mr Smith said Pc Beshenivsky was slightly ahead of Pc Milburn as they approached the door of Universal Express.

Pc Milburn later described the door being opened and an Asian man reaching out in front of him and pointing at Pc Beshenivsky.

Mr Smith said: “After this man shot Sharon Beshenivsky, Teresa Milburn saw him move his pistol towards her. She heard a bang and felt immense pain. She knew immediately that she had been shot.”

The court heard that Pc Beshenivsky’s injuries were instantly fatal. Pc Milburn, who activated her personal radio and called for help as she coughed up blood on the pavement, survived her injuries after hospital treatment.

Mr Smith said that before he left the UK for Islamabad, Khan had “settled a business and home life in England and Scotland,” and owned a fast food outlet in Aberdeen.

The court heard that the other men involved in the robbery have since been convicted of offenses including murder, manslaughter, robbery and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

Khan denies the charges and the trial continues.

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