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

Robbers partied on night before PC Sharon Beshenivsky murder, court told

PC Sharon Beshenivsky
PC Sharon Beshenivsky was shot in Bradford in November 2005 when she and a colleague responded to an armed robbery. Photograph: West Yorkshire police/PA Media

An armed robbery gang partied with champagne, vodka and sex workers on the eve of the raid in which PC Sharon Beshenivsky was murdered, a court has been told.

Jurors heard that the men spent the night drinking at a “safe house” in Leeds and visited a brothel before the fatal shooting.

Beshenivsky was killed as she and her colleague PC Teresa Milburn responded to an armed robbery at the Universal Express travel agents in Bradford on 18 November 2005.

Piran Ditta Khan, 75, is on trial at Leeds crown court accused of murdering Beshenivsky by “orchestrating” the gang, who were armed with a Mac-10 submachine gun and a pistol.

Six men have been convicted for their role in the robbery but Khan, the alleged ringleader, is the final person to go on trial, the jury has been told.

Robert Smith KC, prosecuting, said on Wednesday that the men had drank “champagne, vodka and Coca-Cola” at a “safe house” on Harehills Lane in Leeds on the night before the fatal shooting, before visiting a brothel in the city.

Beshenivsky and Milburn were shot at “almost point-blank” range seconds after they left their patrol car, the jury has been told.

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

Smith told the jury that they would hear evidence from a “key witness” named Francois Baron, who worked as a decorator at the safe house and allegedly heard the men talking about the plot.

One of the robbers, Muzzaker Shah, produced a black machine-gun and a bag of bullets in front of Baron, the court was told. Another, Faisal Razzaq, warned Baron “never to speak about the gun and told him that his life would be in danger if he did”, Smith said.

Shah was later convicted of Beshenivsky’s murder while Razzaq was convicted of manslaughter, jurors have been told.

Khan was known by the name “Uncle” and Shah allegedly asked him on the eve of the robbery: “Uncle, is it safe?” Khan allegedly replied: “Yes, it’s safe. Genuine.”

Shah then asked how much money the men were likely to steal, to which Khan allegedly replied: “Minimum, 50 grand. Maximum target 100 grand.”

“The group were elated,” Smith told the jury. “There were shouts of, ‘let’s go do it’. They seemed to Francois Baron to be very confident.”

The prosecutor said the men then changed into smart clothing and travelled in convoy to Bradford at about 2.30pm. They changed into suits as a ruse to be allowed entry into Universal Express before carrying out the robbery, the jury has been told.

Smith said: “These steps were taken in the knowledge of the security precautions in place at Universal Express. The prosecution submit that only the defendant had that knowledge.”

When the men returned to the “safe house”, Shah was heard saying to Khan that he had not told them the travel agent was near to a police station, the court heard.

The prosecutor said the gang “began to panic” when they saw a report on the television news of two police officers being shot in Bradford.

The three who raided the travel agents quickly burned their clothes and shaved their heads before going their separate ways, the court was told.

Khan, who allegedly evaded capture by fleeing to Pakistan, denies murder and firearms offences. The trial continues.

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