Mastermind behind robbery that killed police officer on daughter's fourth birthday jailed

PC Beshenivsky was killed on her daughter’s fourth birthday while interrupting a robbery at family-run Universal Express travel agents in Bradford.

Mastermind behind robbery that killed police officer on daughter’s fourth birthday jailed West Yorkshire Police

The mastermind of an armed robbery that ended in a police officer being shot dead will die in jail.

PC Sharon Beshenivsky’s family watched from court as Piran Ditta Khan, who owned a restaurant in Aberdeen, the last member of the gang responsible for the armed raid that claimed her life, was sentenced after almost 20 years.

PC Beshenivsky was killed on her daughter’s fourth birthday while interrupting a robbery 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 raid as he emerged from the door of the business.

In April this year Khan – the gang’s ringleader – became the last of seven men involved in the robbery to be convicted after spending almost 15 years on the run.

The 75-year-old was found guilty of murdering PC Beshenivsky, as well as two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon.

He pleaded guilty to robbery.

Leeds Crown Court heard that although Khan was eating sandwiches in a lookout car when the two officers were shot, he played a “pivotal” role in planning the raid and knew loaded weapons would be used.

Prosecutors said this made him guilty of PC Beshenivsky’s murder “as surely as if he had pulled the trigger himself”.

On Friday, Mr Justice Hilliard jailed Khan for life with a minimum term of 40 years.

Peter Wright, defending, said due to Khan’s age, his “final years, in all probability, are to be spent in custody with the forbidding prospect that he will die there”.

During the trial, jurors heard Khan was the only one of the group who was familiar with Universal Express and had used the firm in the past to send money to family in Pakistan.

He 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.

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 he was trying to reclaim £12,000 owed to him by Universal Express’s owner and that debt collector Hassan Razzaq, who was later convicted of the manslaughter of PC Beshenivsky, had offered to help get his money back.

Prosecutors said there was no evidence of this.

The court heard PC Beshenivsky’s injury was immediately fatal.

PC Milburn, who activated her personal radio and called for help as she was coughing up blood, survived her injuries after hospital treatment.

In a victim personal statement read in court, PC Beshenivsky’s daughter Lydia said she was “too young and innocent” to understand what happened when her mother failed to return home from work to celebrate her birthday.

Ms Beshenivsky described her mother as “a hero who paid the ultimate sacrifice” and said she was proud of her for “doing the job she loved”.

She said: “There will always be a void in my life – a void that should have been filled with my mum’s presence but as a result of violent, callous actions by you, Piran Ditta Khan, and your associates that day, you robbed me of a future and precious time with my mum.

“Every birthday is a reminder of what happened that day. It has recently been Mother’s Day, and while my friends are celebrating with their mums, I sadly can never do that.”

Paul Beshenivsky, who had been married to PC Beshenivsky for four years when she died, said telling the children what had happened was “the hardest thing I have ever had to do”.

His statement read: “The way we lost Sharon was in the most brutal, callous and futile way.

“She never came home due to the actions and organisation of one person – Piran Ditta Khan.

“If Piran Ditta Khan had never organised the robbery, Sharon would never have been shot dead and she would have come home that day.”

The judge, Mr Justice Hilliard, praised PC Beshenivsky’s “courage” in responding to the call “when she and her colleague had no way of knowing what they would be confronted with when they got there”.

“PC Sharon Beshenivsky’s courage and commitment to duty that day cost her her life,” he said.”

Mr Justice Hilliard said because Khan had fled to Pakistan after the murder at the age of 57 he had “spent the rest of your 50s and all your 60s at liberty when you should have spent those years in custody”.

The judge told Khan: “You will inevitably spend the remainder of your life in custody, but that is a consequence of sentencing a man of your age for a crime of this particular gravity.”

He said it would not be right to reduce the sentence because of Khan’s age and health conditions.

“You are responsible for the fact that you are being sentenced at the age of 75 and not at a younger age.

“You have had your younger and healthier years at liberty because you chose to leave the country when you feared you were about to be arrested.”

Mr Justice Hilliard told Khan: “You did not yourself enter the premises of Universal Express armed with weapons, however, I am sure you were the first to conceive of this robbery.”

A statement from PC Beshenivsky’s family read outside court following the hearing said: “November 2005 was the start of an almost 19-year journey. A journey seeking the truth and justice for Sharon, who was not just a police officer, but a loving mum, wife, daughter, sister, and a friend to many.

“Our journey seeking justice and closure of the judicial process is now at an end. This journey has and continues to be difficult for us all.

“Enduring several trials over the years has been hard, each one of them taking us back to the very beginning, which made us feel like we had lost Sharon all over again. And now we once again pick up the pieces of our lives and continue forward as Sharon would have wanted us all to do.”

Assistant Chief Constable Patrick Twiggs of West Yorkshire Police said: “This is a day of mixed emotions. On the one hand we are pleased to get the final conviction in this case, but on the other hand we are sad as it has brought into sharp focus the completely unnecessary waste of life that day.

“For 18 years we have never given up on getting justice for Sharon and Teresa, and today their families have received that justice.

“Sharon was murdered in the line of duty, in what was a totally unnecessary act. Sharon was doing her job and protecting the public.

“The pain and anguish of what happened on that day and the profound sense of loss, will come flooding back to her family, friends, Police and the local community. It was a day we will never forget.

“We never gave up, we relentlessly pursued Khan even when things got tough, we never gave up.”

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