The ‘organiser’ of a robbery in which a policewoman was shot dead went on trial for her murder today after being on the run for 15 years.
Piran Ditta Khan, 75, wasn’t personally involved in the raid that ended with PC Sharon Beshenivsky being shot dead at point blank range and her colleague PC Teresa Milburn seriously injured, Leeds Crown Court heard.
But he was described by prosecutor Robert Smith, KC, as the man ‘responsible for organising this robbery.’
Mr Smith said Khan’s part in the operation was so ‘pivotal’ that he is guilty of PC Beshenivsky’s murder.
The men escaped with £5,400 cash after the raid on the Universal Express travel agency in Bradford on 18 November 2005.
Piran Ditta Khan (pictured), 75, was extradited from Pakistan over the killing of PC Sharon Beshenivsky in 2005. Prosecutors claim he organised the raid in Bradford which resulted in the officer being fatally shot
PC Beshenivsky (pictured) was 38 when she was killed on November 18 2005 after she and a colleague responded to a report of a robbery at Universal Travel in Morley Street, Bradford, West Yorkshire
Mother-of-three PC Beshenivsky was 38 when she was killed on November 18 2005 after she and a colleague responded to a report of the robbery at Universal Travel.
She was just nine months into her role as an officer when she was gunned down.
The court heard seven men in three cars were involved in the raid. Khan was parked in one but never left his vehicle while three colleagues carried out the raid and shot the police officers, the jury heard. Two others acted as look outs in a third vehicle.
With a big police operation underway Khan then left the country in a flight from Heathrow to Islamabad in January 2006 and remained a free man until his arrest in Pakistan in 2020.
He was ultimately extradited to the UK to stand trial – the final member of the group to go before a jury.
Khan denies murder, possession of a machine gun and possession of a pistol with intent to endanger life and two offences of possession of a prohibited weapon.
Mr Smith told the jury both police officers were shot at ‘almost point blank range’ by one of the three robbers who went inside the travel agency armed with a machine gun, pistol and knife.
As they fled the scene the gunman fired ‘indiscriminately’ in the street.
Court artist drawing of Piran Ditta Khan appearing at Leeds Crown Court today, charged with the 2005 murder of Police Constable Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford
Former West Yorkshire Police detective chief superintendent Andy Brennan arrives at Leeds Crown Court for Khan’s trial
They left PC Beshenivsky to die on the pavement outside the premises, he said. PC Milburn was also shot and taken to hospital for emergency treatment and she survived.
Police raced to the scene and were given a partial registration number of the robbers’ car. PC Milburn was also able to give a ‘brief description’ of the gunman.
By searching CCTV and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras police identified the Toyota Rav 4 car used by the three raiders and that had been hired three weeks earlier.
The car was traced by police in London the following day but the occupiers were ‘not the men who carried out the robbery,’ the court heard.
In due course the six other men were all arrested, tried and convicted of offences of murder, manslaughter, robbery and firearms offences. Until his arrest in Pakistan in 2020 Khan evaded capture.
Today he sat in the dock, following the evidence with the help of an interpreter, as Mr Smith detailed his role in the shocking crime.
Mr Smith told jurors: ‘The defendant was not one of the men who physically carried out the robbery. He was not one of the group of three who had been personally responsible for shooting PC Beshenivsky and PC Milburn.’
While the raid was going on he was sat in the passenger seat of a Mercedes car which was in the area.
He was the key ‘organiser’ and the one with knowledge of the Universal Express business and the interior of the premises.
The business was used by local people to transfer funds to relatives in Pakistan by paying in cash. As a customer who had used it for this purpose, Khan was aware that ‘substantial quantities’ of cash were held there, the court heard.
He knew about the security within the building and that firearms would be needed to threaten staff, said Mr Smith.
Khan was also aware that customers could only enter inside through a lobby that was locked. Staff checked out people in the lobby before unlocking the door, the court heard.
On the day of the raid two of them robbers were dressed in suits and the third in a white shirt and jacket. Their loaded guns were inside a computer bag along with a large knife and cable ties to tie up staff, the jury heard.
They were dressed to look respectable so that they would be allowed inside.
Khan also planned the raid, making a scouting trip from his home in Ilford, North London, five days earlier on a quiet Sunday when the business was closed.
The group had a safehouse in Leeds where they gathered before the raid. It was at this safehouse that a witness heard Khan being asked about the amount of cash they could expect to get in the planned robbery.
The court heard the defendant told the group a ‘minimum of £50,000 and a maximum of £100,000.’