PC Sharon Beshenivsky murder suspect spent two decades evading police in Pakistan, jury told

14 February 2024, 00:11

PC Sharon Beshenivsky murder suspect spent two decades evading police in Pakistan, jury told
PC Sharon Beshenivsky murder suspect spent two decades evading police in Pakistan, jury told. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

The man accused of murdering PC Sharon Beshenivsky in 2005 evaded capture for almost 20 years before being extradited from Pakistan, prosecutors have told a jury.

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PC Beshenivsky was killed on November 18, 2005, as she and her colleague PC Teresa Milburn responded to a report of a robbery at a travel agent in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

Shots were fired at almost point-blank range toward the officers by one of three men who had just committed the robbery at the Universal Express outlet, Leeds Crown Court was told Tuesday.

The gunman fired "indiscriminately" as he ran away from the scene before getting into a nearby car.

Until now the seven men who were involved in committing the robbery have all been convicted - with the exception of Piran Ditta Khan.

Khan, 75, who prosecutors say planned the robbery, flew to Pakistan three months after PC Beshenivsky's death and remained at liberty there until he was arrested and detained by Pakistani authorities in January 2020.

Court artist drawing by Elizabeth Cook of Piran Ditta Khan appearing at Leeds Crown Court charged with the 2005 murder of Police Constable Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford
Court artist drawing by Elizabeth Cook of Piran Ditta Khan appearing at Leeds Crown Court charged with the 2005 murder of Police Constable Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford. Picture: Alamy

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Khan arrived in the UK last April after an extradition request from the British Government, and is now on trial charged with murder, two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon.

PC Beshenivsky's widower Paul was in court, watching from the public gallery as the trial got underway on Tuesday.

Mr Smith told jurors that although Khan was not one of the three men who carried out the robbery, and did not shoot PC Beshenivsky, he "was responsible for organising this robbery in the knowledge that loaded firearms were to be carried".

Jurors heard that during the robbery, Khan "did not leave the safety" of a Mercedes SLK which was being used as a lookout car.

But, Mr Smith said, the men who carried out the robbery "were disposed to use their firearms to kill or to seriously injure anyone who stood in their way ... something of which the defendant would have been well aware".

"The part he played was such that the prosecution contend he is also guilty of the murder of Sharon Beshenivsky," the prosecutor said.

Leeds Crown Court heard that as well as being a travel agents, Universal Express provided a service for people living and working in the UK to transfer money to the bank accounts of relatives in Pakistan.

Mr Smith said Khan, who lived in Ilford, north London, had used this service before and was "the only one amongst the group that knew the location of the business and the interior of the premises in question".

The court also heard he would have been aware that large amounts of cash were kept on the premises during the day.

Teresa Milburn (centre), colleague of murdered police officer Sharon Beshenivsky, follows the horse-drawn carriage into the grounds of Bradford Cathedral at the funeral, January 11, 2006
Teresa Milburn (centre), colleague of murdered police officer Sharon Beshenivsky, follows the horse-drawn carriage into the grounds of Bradford Cathedral at the funeral, January 11, 2006. Picture: Alamy

Jurors heard that the seven men had assembled at a house in Leeds on the morning of the robbery, and a witness overheard one of them asking Khan how much money they could expect to get.

The witness heard Khan saying a minimum of £50,000 and a maximum of £100,000, Mr Smith said.

Jurors were told that staff at Universal Express had to let customers into the premises through a door with an electric lock.

Mr Smith said two of the men who carried out the robbery were "dressed for the occasion in suits", while the third was dressed in a smart white shirt and jacket.

One of them also carried a laptop bag which contained "at least one pistol and machine gun, both of which were loaded", as well as a large knife and cable which was intended for "tying up staff at the premises".

"Their conduct in dressing this way was not by chance but as a result of knowledge of how the premises were operated, in particular the need to present themselves as responsible persons in order to be admitted to the premises," the prosecutor said.

Mr Smith said Khan was the only one of the group who had this knowledge, and told jurors the defendant had also visited Universal Express five days earlier "in order to complete planning for the robbery".

The court heard that on the day of Pc Beshenivsky's death, the three cars involved in the robbery travelled in convoy and parked at different locations close to the business.

Jurors were told PC Beshenivsky, 38, and PC Milburn, who was 37 at the time, were both unarmed when they attended a report of a robbery and "neither presented any effective threat to the three men".

PC Milburn later described seeing the door open and an Asian man stretching out his hand in front of him and pointing at Pc Beshenivsky.

Mr Smith said: "After this man shot Sharon Beshenivsky, Teresa Milburn saw him move his pistol towards her. She heard a bang and felt immense pain. She knew immediately she had been shot."

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 on the pavement, survived her injuries after hospital treatment.

Mr Smith said before he left the UK for Islamabad, Khan had a "settled business and domestic life in England and Scotland," and owned a fast food outlet in Aberdeen.

The court heard the other men involved in the robbery have since been convicted of offences including murder, manslaughter, robbery and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

Khan denies the charges. The trial continues.

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