Robbery mastermind behind Pc Sharon Beshenivsky’s murder jailed for life

Robbery mastermind behind Pc Sharon Beshenivsky’s murder jailed for life

The mastermind behind a bungled armed robbery that saw a police officer gunned down in the street has been jailed for life.

Pc Sharon Beshenivsky was shot dead on her daughter’s fourth birthday after she and a colleague interrupted a raid at Universal Express travel agents in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in November 2005.

She and Pc Teresa Milburn, who were both unarmed, were shot at point-blank range after four men had just carried out the robbery.

At the time of her death, she had only been an officer for nine months and “didn’t have a chance” to get away from the gunman.

Piran Ditta Khan, 75, who has been found guilty at Leeds Crown Court of the murder of Pc Sharon Beshenivsky (West Yorkshire Police/PA Wire)

Almost two decades on, the gang’s ringleader, Piran Ditta Khan, became the last of the seven men involved in the robbery to be convicted in April this year.

He was arrested in Pakistan after spending 15 years on the run, and was extradited back to the UK to stand trial. The 75-year-old was found guilty of 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.

On Friday, he was sentenced at Leeds Crown Court to life with a minimum term of 40 years for the murder of Pc Beshenivsky.

The court heard that although Khan did not leave the safety of a lookout car throughout the raid, he played a “pivotal” role in planning it 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”.

CCTV of Pc Sharon Beshenivsky moments before she was shot (West Yorkshire Police/PA Wire)

During the trial, jurors heard Khan 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.

Khan told jurors he did not know that a robbery was going to be carried out, or that weapons were going to be taken.

He claimed he was owed £12,000 by Universal Express’s owner and that debt collector Hassan Razzaq, who was later convicted of manslaughter over Pc Beshenivsky’s death, had offered to help get his money back. Prosecutors said there was no evidence of this.

CCTV cameras had captured the chilling moment the two police officers were gunned down in the street, after her killer began “firing indiscriminately” as he ran away.

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.

Sharon Beshenivsky was shot dead during a raid on a travel agents (West Yorkshire Police/PA) (PA Media)

Passing sentence, judge Mr Justice Hilliard said: “You intended that the weapons should be used to kill if necessary to do so” and added that he was part of a “planned enterprise” and shared “murderous intent”.

Pc Beshenivksy’s family said her murderer’s conviction marked the end of a tortuous 19-year journey of seeking “truth and justice” – but no punishment could compensate for her death.

In a statement, they 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.

“That was the day the lives of our family and those close to Sharon changed forever. As well as Sharon’s friend and colleague Teresa, and her family.

“No prison sentence could ever compensate us for Sharon’s life and our loss, but we will move forward knowing that justice has been served.”