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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Josh Halliday North of England correspondent

Man accused of Beshenivsky murder evaded arrest for 17 years, court told

Sharon Beshenivsky
PC Sharon Beshenivsky, 38, died after being shot at ‘almost point-blank range’ outside the Universal Express travel agency, a jury heard. Photograph: West Yorkshire police/PA

The mastermind of an armed robbery in which a police officer was killed and another seriously injured evaded capture for almost 20 years before being extradited from Pakistan, a court has been told.

PC Sharon Beshenivsky was murdered when she and her colleague PC Teresa Milburn responded to a report of a robbery at the Universal Express travel agency in Bradford, West Yorkshire, on 18 November 2005.

The officers were shot at “almost point-blank range” when three men burst out of the premises, one firing “indiscriminately” as they fled, a jury was told on Tuesday.

Beshenivsky, 38, who had been an officer for only nine months, died on the pavement after being shot through the heart, Leeds crown court was told. Milburn survived despite serious injuries.

Robert Smith KC, prosecuting, told the jury that seven men were involved in the robbery and had all been convicted “with one exception … His name, as you have heard, is Piran Ditta Khan.”

Smith said Khan had evaded arrest by fleeing to Islamabad, in Pakistan, two months after the murder. He was eventually tracked down by police and extradited to the UK in April last year, the court was told.

Khan, now 75, listened to the proceedings with the help of an interpreter as the prosecutor outlined the case on Tuesday.

The jury was told that Khan was the only one of the seven robbers who knew Bradford and that he had transferred money at Universal Express five times before the robbery.

Smith said Khan knew that “substantial amounts” of cash were held at the premises as he had previously used its services to send money to Pakistan.

Khan, who lived in Ilford, in east London, was heard telling the other men hours before the robbery that they could expect to steal between £50,000 and £100,000, the court heard.

Smith added: “The defendant is not one of the men who physically carried out the robbery and was not one of the three men responsible for the act of shooting PC Beshenivsky and PC Milburn.

“The defendant in fact did not leave the safety of the Mercedes SLK at any time in the robbery and he remained a distance from the premises. But his role in these offences was pivotal and the part he played was such that the prosecution contend that he is also responsible for the murder of PC Beshenivsky.”

Jurors were shown CCTV footage of the moment Beshenivsky and Milburn were shot within seconds of arriving outside the travel agency.

The video showed the two officers making their way across Morley Street to the premises, where they were confronted by three men fleeing the building.

Smith said Milburn recalled seeing two men “struggling with the door as if it would not open” before one of the robbers pointed his gun at Beshenivsky and opened fire. The gunman then turned his weapon on Milburn, shooting her in the chest.

The jury was told that Khan led a settled domestic and business life in England and Scotland before he left “abruptly” for his native Pakistan on 22 January 2006.

The defendant had registered a food company and made plans to open a takeaway in Aberdeen, flying there to meet an architect just days before the robbery, the court heard.

However, he abandoned his business and family when he feared the police were “closing in on him”, Smith said.

The jury was told that Khan pleaded guilty in October last year to robbery but denies involvement in the murder or firearms offences, including possessing a Mac-10 submachine gun and a 9mm pistol. The trial continues.

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