'Murderous' mastermind of raid where PC Sharon Beshenivsky shot dead in 2005 jailed for life

Piran Ditta Khan has been jailed for murder
Piran Ditta Khan has been jailed for life -Credit:West Yorkshire Police / SWNS

The mastermind behind a botched armed robbery that resulted in the tragic shooting of a police officer has finally been sentenced to life imprisonment, 18 years after the crime. Piran Ditta Khan, 75, was handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 40 years, less time on remand, equating to 35 years and 247 days behind bars.

PC Sharon Beshenivsky was fatally shot while responding to a raid at Universal Express travel agents in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in November 2005. The incident occurred on her daughter's fourth birthday.

PC Beshenivsky and her colleague, PC Teresa Milburn, were both unarmed when they were shot at close range by one of the three men involved in the robbery as he exited the premises.

Khan, who had evaded capture for 15 years before his arrest in Pakistan, was the last of the seven men involved in the robbery to be convicted in April this year. He was found guilty of murdering PC Beshenivsky, two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, and two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon.

He pleaded guilty to robbery, reports the Mirror.

PC Sharon Beshenivsky

The Honourable Mrs Justice Hilliard made the following statement: "This was very far from a case of spontaneous violence...You were in this planned enterprise together with the three robbers, albeit playing different parts, and were responsible for the harm caused...The four of you shared a murderous intent...You set off a chain of events."

Leeds Crown Court was informed that Khan played a "pivotal" role in planning the raid, despite not leaving the safety of a lookout car. Prosecutors stated that this made him guilty of PC Beshenivsky's murder "as surely as if he had pulled the trigger himself".

During the trial, jurors were informed that Khan was the only member of the group who was familiar with Universal Express and had previously used them to send money to family. He travelled to Pakistan two months following PC Beshenivsky's death and remained at liberty there until his arrest by Pakistani authorities in January 2020.

He was subsequently extradited to the UK last year.

Khan claimed that he was unaware of the planned robbery or the use of weapons. He stated that he was owed £12,000 by Universal Express's owner and that debt collector Hassan Razzaq, who was later convicted of manslaughter over PC Beshenivsky's death, had offered to assist in retrieving his money.

Prosecutors have stated that there was no evidence to support the defence's claims. The court was informed that PC Beshenivsky's wound proved instantly fatal.

Meanwhile, PC Milburn managed to activate her personal radio and call for assistance while she was spitting up blood; she survived after receiving medical treatment at a hospital.

The court also heard how PC Milburn remains baffled as to why they were fired upon, given that they had not attempted to apprehend the three men and posed no threat.

Lydia Beshenivsky speaking to ITV

In her victim personal statement, she expressed: "I think back to that incident every day, I think back to Sharon every day. I've never grieved for someone as much as I have done for Sharon."

Ahead of today's sentencing, PC Beshenivsky's daughter Lydia spoke out, telling ITV that the sentencing of Khan would bring "relief". She said: "There's relief that he's actually going to be behind bars, but that doesn't really change my heart and fix the hole in my heart is forever going to be like that."

She added: "But on the day of the sentencing, I will be glad to see the back of them. With everything that was going on, I couldn't find the words to put on the headstone. I don't think any of us could, but hopefully, after all this is finished, we will get a headstone and really find some peace."

Lydia Beshenivsky opened up about her struggles with losing her mother on the same day she should have been celebrating her 4th birthday. She shared: "My dad was waiting for her to come like everybody else. Then a car pulled up at the top of the drive, and I actually thought that it was my mum coming home."

She reflected on how difficult her birthdays have been, saying "The party went on; they just wanted to keep me busy, I think. Keep it going. To be honest with you, every other birthday, it's been about my birthday. Not about the death. I find it hard to this day to celebrate my birthday. I do normally go down to Bradford with the police at the memorial and spend my time there."

Finding solace in her hobby of working with horses, Ms Beshenivsky added, "I found myself a hobby that I enjoyed, which is working with the horses and that pulled me away from being pulled down and drained by everything and, I mean, I was in this tunnel of darkness for 19 years."

"I had every obstacle thrown at me that I had to jump over basically by myself."

Wanting to keep her mother's memory alive, Lydia stressed the importance of appreciating loved ones, saying "They don't know how lucky they are," and wanted her mother to be remembered as a hero.

Two members of the gang responsible for her mother's tragic passing, Muzzaker Imtiaz Shah and Yusuf Abdullah Jama were handed life sentences in 2006, with minimum terms of 35 years. Six others are already serving time for their roles in the incident.

Faisal Razzaq was acquitted of murder but convicted of manslaughter, receiving a life sentence with a minimum term of 11 years. A year later, his brother Hassan Razzaq was also found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In the same year, Raza Ul Haq Aslam was convicted of robbery and received an eight-year prison sentence.

Mustaf Jama, who had fled to Somalia using a friend's passport, was extradited in 2007 following an undercover operation. The brother of Yusuf Jama, he was convicted of murder and given a life sentence with a minimum term of 35 years.

Today, Khan was also handed a life sentence for robbery with a minimum term of 10 years. For possession of firearms with intent to endanger life, he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 14 years and eight months.

For two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon, he was given 10 years imprisonment for each count.

All sentences will run concurrently. Any time spent on remand or awaiting extradition will be deducted from the total time to be served.