Mon. Feb 26th, 2024
alert-–-‘organiser’,-75,-of-robbery-which-saw-pc-sharon-beshenivsky-shot-dead-made-a-scouting-trip-five-days-before-the-raid-and-knew-‘substantial-quantities’-of-cash-were-held-at-the-travel-agency,-murder-trial-toldAlert – ‘Organiser’, 75, of robbery which saw PC Sharon Beshenivsky shot dead made a scouting trip five days before the raid and knew ‘substantial quantities’ of cash were held at the travel agency, murder trial told

The ‘organiser’ of a robbery in which a policewoman was shot dead had scoured the site days earlier and knew ‘substantial quantities’ of cash were held there.

Piran Ditta Khan, 75, wasn’t personally involved in the raid that ended with PC Sharon Beshenivsky being shot dead at point blank range and her colleague PC Teresa Milburn seriously injured, Leeds Crown Court heard.

But he was described by prosecutor Robert Smith, KC, as the man ‘responsible for organising this robbery.’

Khan had planned the raid, making a scouting trip from his home in Ilford, North London, five days earlier on a quiet Sunday when the business was closed.

Mr Smith told the jury both officers were shot at ‘almost point blank range’ by one of the three robbers who went inside the travel agency armed with a machine gun, pistol and knife.

The murdered officer’s husband Paul Beshenivsky listened to Mr Smith’s opening remarks from the public gallery in court.

Piran Ditta Khan (pictured), 75, was extradited from Pakistan over the killing of PC Sharon Beshenivsky in 2005. Prosecutors claim he organised the raid in Bradford which resulted in the officer being fatally shot

Piran Ditta Khan (pictured), 75, was extradited from Pakistan over the killing of PC Sharon Beshenivsky in 2005. Prosecutors claim he organised the raid in Bradford which resulted in the officer being fatally shot

PC Beshenivsky (pictured) was 38 when she was killed on November 18 2005 after she and a colleague responded to a report of a robbery at Universal Travel in Morley Street, Bradford, West Yorkshire

PC Beshenivsky (pictured) was 38 when she was killed on November 18 2005 after she and a colleague responded to a report of a robbery at Universal Travel in Morley Street, Bradford, West Yorkshire

As they fled the scene the gunman fired ‘indiscriminately’ in the street. The men escaped with £5,400 cash after the raid on the Universal Express travel agency in Bradford on 18 November 2005.

They left PC Beshenivsky to die on the pavement outside the premises, he said. PC Milburn was also shot and taken to hospital for emergency treatment and she survived.

Police raced to the scene and were given a partial registration number of the robbers’ car. PC Milburn was also able to give a ‘brief description’ of the gunman.

By searching CCTV and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras police identified the Toyota Rav 4 car used by the three raiders and that had been hired three weeks earlier.

The car was traced by police in London the following day but the occupiers were ‘not the men who carried out the robbery,’ the court heard.

In due course the six other men were all arrested, tried and convicted of offences of murder, manslaughter, robbery and firearms offences. Until his arrest in Pakistan in 2020 Khan evaded capture.

Today he sat in the dock, following the evidence with the help of an interpreter, as Mr Smith detailed his role in the shocking crime.

Mr Smith told jurors: ‘The defendant was not one of the men who physically carried out the robbery. He was not one of the group of three who had been personally responsible for shooting PC Beshenivsky and PC Milburn.’

While the raid was going on he was sat in the passenger seat of a Mercedes car which was in the area.

He was the key ‘organiser’ and the one with knowledge of the Universal Express business and the interior of the premises.

The business was used by local people to transfer funds to relatives in Pakistan by paying in cash. As a customer who had used it for this purpose, Khan was aware that ‘substantial quantities’ of cash were held there, the court heard.

Court artist drawing of Piran Ditta Khan appearing at Leeds Crown Court today, charged with the 2005 murder of Police Constable Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford

Court artist drawing of Piran Ditta Khan appearing at Leeds Crown Court today, charged with the 2005 murder of Police Constable Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford

He knew about the security within the building and that firearms would be needed to threaten staff, said Mr Smith.

Khan was also aware that customers could only enter inside through a lobby that was locked. Staff checked out people in the lobby before unlocking the door, the court heard.

On the day of the raid two of them robbers were dressed in suits and the third in a white shirt and jacket. Their loaded guns were inside a computer bag along with a large knife and cable ties to tie up staff, the jury heard.

They were dressed to look respectable so that they would be allowed inside.

The group had a safehouse in Leeds where they gathered before the raid. It was at this safehouse that a witness heard Khan being asked about the amount of cash they could expect to get in the planned robbery.

The court heard the defendant told the group a ‘minimum of £50,000 and a maximum of £100,000.’

The jury heard that Khan has already pleaded guilty to robbery of the Universal Express travel agency.

The ‘instruction’ to go ahead with the robbery was allegedly made in a phone call from the mobile phone of Khan’s driver Hassan Razzaq at 3.20pm as the Mercedes drove past the premises.

The three robbers were allowed into the building and then carried out the robbery.

Former West Yorkshire Police detective chief superintendent Andy Brennan arrives at Leeds Crown Court for Khan's trial

Former West Yorkshire Police detective chief superintendent Andy Brennan arrives at Leeds Crown Court for Khan’s trial

Mr Smith said the trio ‘threatened and assaulted’ staff and ‘treated them brutally’ during the raid. A single round of the machine gun was fired inside before it ‘jammed.’

Then on leaving the travel agency after the robbery the men were ‘confronted by two unarmed female police officers ‘who posed no threat to them whatsoever.’

One of the men had ‘no hesitation’ in shooting both officers with the pistol.

Mr Smith said there was ‘compelling evidence’ Khan had ‘orchestrated’ the events of that day and was full agreement of the use of firearms.

Recalling the murder in more detail. Mr Smith said the two officers were nearing the end of their shift when they responded to a radio message to go to the travel agency. A ‘silent alarm’ had been activated by a member of staff and police alerted.

Two civilian street wardens were in the area and looked through the window and a man – who was one of the robbers – said ‘we’re on a break.’

The wardens spoke briefly to the police officers when they arrived in their car. CCTV showed the two officers walking across the street to the building. Within seconds they had both been shot.

PC Beshenivisky had been in the police for just nine months. She was shot through the heart and spinal column and died instantly.

PC Milburn, who was 37 at the time and had been a constable for a year and eight months, later described the shooting. She saw an Asian man point his pistol at PC Beshenivsky and shoot her and then turn the gun towards her. Mr Smith said she heard a bang and felt ‘immense pain.’

Fortunately the bullet missed her major organs.

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