'Tunnel of darkness': Sharon Beshenivsky's daughter on her mother's murder

Police Constable Sharon Beshenivsky was just 38 when she was shot and killed after responding to a robbery in Bradford, on her daughter Lydia's fourth birthday.

PC Sharon Beshenivsky’s daughter, Lydia, sat down with ITV News’ Mary Nightingale almost 20 years after her mother was shot and killed while responding to a robbery at a Bradford travel agents

Lydia has no memory of her mother, who died when she was just four-years-old.

She has some treasured photos of the two of them together: a devoted mum cradling her as a baby, and later a lively toddler – clutching an ice cream and a fistful of Wotsits – cuddled up on a sun lounger.

Those pictures are so precious because they provide one of the few links Lydia has with the mum who was gone all too soon.

And whose face she simply cannot recall.

For very many of us, though, that face is instantly recognisable. The blonde hair and beaming smile of Sharon Beshenivsky came to dominate the headlines, almost 20 years ago, after the young police constable was killed responding to a robbery at a Bradford Travel agents.

Sharon Beshenivsky and her daughter, Lydia, on holiday together. / Credit: Family handout

Her colleague Theresa Milburn survived her terrible bullet wounds. But Sharon died at the scene – shot at point blank range.

She was just 38-years-old. It was Lydia’s fourth birthday.

Sharon had wrapped the presents and made the cake before leaving for work that morning. But she never made it home for the party.

Lydia remembers a police car drawing up outside, and being excited because that must mean mummy was back to join in the fun.

Instead it was two police officers who broke the news to her devastated father. He was determined the party should continue, for Lydia’s sake. But life had changed forever.

‘A car pulled up to the top of the drive and I actually thought that it was my mum coming home. Unfortunately, it was the police coming to tell my dad that she’d been killed.’

The gang of seven men responsible were identified soon afterwards. Three of them: Mustaf Jama, Yusuf Jama and Muzzaker Shah were jailed for life.

Three more members of the gang: Faisal Razzaq, Hassan Razzaq and Raza Ul-Haq Aslam served sentences for robbery and manslaughter. They have all since been released from jail.

The mastermind behind the raid, Piran Ditta Khan, fled to Pakistan, where he evaded capture for many years. He was finally arrested in 2020, and eventually extradited to Britain to face trial.

He was convicted of Sharon’s murder on April 4, and he will be sentenced on May 10.

I spent the day at home with Lydia – now aged 22 – following the guilty verdict.

She looks startlingly like her late mother. The same bright blonde hair and distinctive smile. Even the same infectious laugh, she’s been told, that could silence a room.

That likeness has brought its own challenges over the years – combined with the unmistakable surname. There aren’t many Beshenivsky’s in Yorkshire.

People often say she looks familiar – and are mortified once they realise who she is.

Sometimes they start to cry, overwhelmed by meeting the bereaved daughter of the young policewoman whose death so shocked the nation all those years ago.

Sharon Beshenivsky on her wedding day. / Credit: Family handout

Lydia is fiercely proud of her mother, but I suspect it’s sometimes a tough burden to bear.

She openly admits she has struggled over the years. Stuck in a “black tunnel” of grief, as she puts it. But she feels her mother’s presence often, and believes Sharon gave a her a “big kick” to get herself back on track when she was at her lowest ebb.

Lydia is now pursuing a career in horses, and holds a responsible position helping to run a racing stables. She finds peace in these magnificent creatures, and relishes the tough daily routine of caring for them.

Horses are completely honest, she says, they don’t judge and are a wonderful, calm, constant in her life.

One day she would like to be a mother herself, and looks forward to having children of her own.

‘I’ve seen light at the end of the tunnel with Piran Ditta Khan being caught because I know everyone’s served their time,’ Lydia tells ITV News’ Mary Nightingale

She would give anything, she says, to have her mum beside her as she progresses through life, and urges anyone who takes their parents for granted to think again. They don’t know how lucky they are.

Does she feel relieved that justice has been done after all this time? Of course, it’s never that simple.

Yes, she is delighted that PDK, as she calls him, is behind bars. But she hates that he has enjoyed decades of life that Sharon was denied.

Now 75-years-old, Ditta Khan will almost certainly die in prison. There’s undoubtedly justice in that for Lydia and her family.

But it doesn’t heal the hole in her heart. The empty space where her mum should be.

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