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Pakistani man convicted of UK cop’s murder

Courtesy: Dawn News

LONDON: After two decades of evading justice, a Pakistani man was convicted on Thursday of murdering a UK police officer in 2005.

PC Sharon Beshenivsky was a 38-year-old mother of three who was shot dead outside a travel agency in Bradford while responding to an armed robbery call. She was shot at point blank range.

Piran Ditta Khan, 75, who has been wanted by British authorities since 2006, was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court after previously pleading guilty to robbery. He was the last of seven men involved in the robbery to be convicted.

Khan was convicted of murder by a majority of 10-1 after 11 jurors deliberated for almost 19 hours over four days. He was also found guilty of two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, also by a majority of 10-1. He was unanimously convicted of two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon.

The incident unfolded on Nov 18, 2005, when Sharon Beshenivsky and PC Teresa Milburn responded to an alarm call at a travel agency on Morley Street in Bradford. Upon arrival, they were met with gunfire by three assailants, resulting in Beshenivsky’s fatal shooting and injuries to Milburn.

Prosecutors said former takeaway boss Khan was the group’s ringleader and, although he did not leave the safety of a lookout car during the raid, he played a “pivotal” role in planning it and knew that loaded firearms were to be used.

They told jurors this made him guilty of Beshenivsky’s murder “as surely as if he had pulled the trigger on that pistol himself”.

He 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 in Pakistan, the court heard.

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 the business’s owner, Mohammmad Yousaf, owed him £12,000 and that debt collector Hassan Razzaq offered to get his money back after the pair met through a business associate.

Khan said he thought the men Razzaq sent would “intimidate” the staff at Universal Express, or at worst, “slap them”.

Prosecutor Robert Smith KC said Khan’s claim of being defrauded was an “entirely false” attempt to explain why he was in Bradford at the time of the robbery and murder.

Jurors heard Khan, who was living in Enfield, London, at the time, was driven to Yorkshire by Razzaq on a reconnaissance trip five days before the raid.

The day before the robbery, they travelled up again to a “safe house” in Leeds where they spent the night.

Francois Baron, who was working on renovating the house, later told police he had heard the robbers discussing the plot in one of the bedrooms.

Mr Baron said he heard gunman Muzzaker Shah asking Khan: “Uncle, is it safe?” Khan was said to have replied: “Yes, it’s safe. Genuine.”

Jurors heard Shah asked: “How much can we get?” and Khan replied: “Minimum £50,000, maximum target 100 grand.”

The group were said to be “elated” and “confident,” shouting: “Let’s go do it.”

Khan fled to Pakistan two months after the murder to evade capture and remained free till he was apprehended in 2020 in Islamabad. While there, his lawyer said Khan wanted to be tried in his home country.

Despite the absence of an extradition treaty, the CPS, National Crime Agency, and Pakistani authorities worked together to facilitate Khan’s return to the UK in April 2023, where he was arrested and charged.

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