Armed robber, 75, who murdered PC Sharon Beshenivsky to die in jail after evading justice for nearly 20 years

10 May 2024, 15:01 | Updated: 10 May 2024, 16:10

Piran Ditta Khan (l) found guilty of the murder of PC Sharon Beshenivsky in 2005
Piran Ditta Khan (l) found guilty of the murder of PC Sharon Beshenivsky in 2005. Picture: alamy/police

By Kit Heren

The mastermind behind the killing of police officer Sharon Beshenivsky has been jailed for life after being found guilty of her murder - 19 years after she was shot dead while responding to an armed robbery.

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Piran Ditta Khan, 75, was jailed for life and was told he would serve a minimum of 40 years in prison for his part in the murder of PC Sharon Beshenivsky, 38.

His defence lawyer said that due to Khan's age, his "final years, in all probability, are to be spent in custody with the forbidding prospect that he will die there".

Khan had spent the best part of two decades fleeing from justice, and even tried twice to fake his own death.

PC Beshenivsky was gunned down while responding to the armed robbery at a travel agents in Bradford in 2005, on her daughter's fourth birthday.

Sentencing Khan, the judge, the Honourable Mr Justice Hilliard, said that PC Beshenivsky's "courage and commitment to her duty that day cost her her life".

He added: "The sentence I pass is no measure of the value of the life that has been lost. That's beyond measure and no sentence I pass can put right what you've done wrong."

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PC Sharon Beshenivsky who was murdered in 2005
PC Sharon Beshenivsky who was murdered in 2005. Picture: West Yorkshire Police

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In a victim personal statement read in court, Pc Beshenivsky's daughter Lydia said she was "too young and innocent" to understand what happened when her mother failed to return home from work to celebrate her birthday.

Ms Beshenivsky described her mother as "a hero who paid the ultimate sacrifice" and said she was proud of her for "doing the job she loved".

She said: "There will always be a void in my life - a void that should have been filled with my mum's presence but as a result of violent, callous actions by you, Piran Ditta Khan, and your associates that day, you robbed me of a future and precious time with my mum.

"Every birthday is a reminder of what happened that day. It has recently been Mother's Day, and while my friends are celebrating with their mums, I sadly can never do that."

Paul Beshenivsky, who had been married to Pc Beshenivsky for four years when she died, said telling the children what had happened was "the hardest thing I have ever had to do".

His statement read: "The way we lost Sharon was in the most brutal, callous and futile way.

"She never came home due to the actions and organisation of one person - Piran Ditta Khan.

"If Piran Ditta Khan had never organised the robbery, Sharon would never have been shot dead and she would have come home that day."

Khan was convicted of murder in April by a majority of 10-1 after 11 jurors deliberated for almost 19 hours over four days.

He was found guilty of two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, also by a majority of 10-1.

Khan had denied murder, two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon.

Six men were found guilty over the botched robbery, with Khan now the seventh to face justice.

Khan had fled to Pakistan three months after the shooting.

PC Beshenivsky was killed and her colleague Teresa Milburn, 37, wounded during the bungled raid in November 2005.

She died on her daughter Lydia's fourth birthday, who was waiting for her mother to come home.

The trial was told the officers “didn’t stand a chance” as they were blasted by an armed robber at point blank range just before the end of their shift.

Pakistani police officers escort to Piran Ditta Khan, after an earlier court appearance in Islamabad
Pakistani police officers escort to Piran Ditta Khan, after an earlier court appearance in Islamabad. Picture: Alamy

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The 75-year-old flew to Pakistan two months after Pc Beshenivsky's death and remained at liberty there until he was arrested by Pakistani authorities in January 2020 and then extradited to the UK last year.

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, played a "pivotal" role in planning it and knew that loaded firearms were to be used.

They told jurors this made him guilty of PC 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".

Forensic teams examine the police patrol car used by officer Sharon Beshenivsky, 38, at the scene of her murder in Bradford
Forensic teams examine the police patrol car used by officer Sharon Beshenivsky, 38, at the scene of her murder in Bradford. Picture: Alamy

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."

Prosecutors said the three robbers who were to go into Universal Express then changed into smart clothing, telling jurors this was because Khan knew they would have to appear "respectable" in order for staff to let them in through the electronically locked door.

In three cars, the group then drove in convoy to Bradford, where Muzzaker Shah and brothers Yusuf Jama and Mustaf Jama went into the travel agents posing as customers.

After initially asking about plane tickets, the three men jumped over the counter and started demanding money, striking several of the staff with their weapons, tying their hands and threatening to "shoot the youngest" if they did not hand over cash.

The group demanded £100,000, later saying they would not leave with less than £50,000, jurors heard.

Waqas Yousaf, Mohammad Yousaf's son, told the robbers they did not have that kind of money and managed to press an alarm which alerted the police.

Pc Beshenivsky and Pc Milburn, who were about to finish their shift, responded to the alert, the trial was told.

The robbers shouted "the Feds are here" before fleeing with around £5,400, with one of them gunning down the officers as they approached the doors of Universal Express.

West Yorkshire Police Detective Superintendent Marc Bowes said: "Today as always our thoughts remain with PC Sharon Beshenivsky and her family, Sharon went to work to protect the public, she responded to a call for help alongside her colleague Teresa but tragically never came home.

"This verdict is the culmination of 18 years of hard work, tenacious grit and determination to bring Khan before the courts."