Shop blast trio murdered five in act that ‘boils down to greed’ – court told

By Josh Payne, Press Association

A shopkeeper and two other men caused a huge explosion to murder five people, including a friend involved in a bogus £300,000 insurance claim who “knew too much”, a court has heard.

Arkan Ali, Hawkar Hassan and Aram Kurd allegedly doused a shop in “many, many litres of petrol” before igniting it – something which “did not bother these defendants one bit”.

Leicester Crown Court heard how some in the neighbourhood near the Polish supermarket on Hinckley Road in the city thought a bomb had exploded.

The prosecution alleged that the trio destroyed the shop and its contents to gain an insurance pay-out of around £300,000 – in an act that “boils down to greed”.

Viktorija Ijevleva (Leicestershire Police/PA)

The jury heard how the defendants intentionally “left (Viktorija Ijevleva) to die” in the explosion and fire, which was started in the basement of the building.

In the days leading up to the alleged murders, the prosecution said Hassan had bought over 26 litres of unleaded petrol which was clearly not intended for the diesel Audi vehicle they had driven to Leicester in.

The court was told that the the can Hassan used to store the petrol was “one and the same” as the can recovered from the rubble after the explosion.

Opening the case, David Herbert QC told the jury of seven women and five men that the defendants intended to maximise the damage to the premises and “would have known” people would have been in the two-storey flat above.

Ali, 37, Hassan, 33, and shopkeeper Kurd, 34, have pleaded not guilty to five counts of murder and five alternative counts of manslaughter.

The trio also deny conspiring with 22-year-old Ms Ijevleva, the partner of Ali, to make a gain, by dishonestly pursuing a claim on an “overinflated” insurance policy in respect of a fire at the shop.

Ms Ijevleva, Mary Ragoobeer, 46, her teenage sons Shane and Sean, and 18-year-old Leah Beth Reek, 18, who was Shane’s girlfriend, were all killed in the blast in February.

One of the Ragoobeer family also just escaped from from the blast, which the prosecution described as a “miracle”.

Addressing the jury on Wednesday, Mr Herbert said: “At 7.01pm on the evening of February 25, 2018, a massive explosion occurred in the basement of premises here in Leicester.

“So massive, that some in the neighbourhood thought it was a bomb that had exploded.

“The explosion and the proceeding fire demolished a building and killed five people in the building – one person who was in the shop and four who were in the flat above enjoying a peaceful night in.”

The jury were shown CCTV footage of the blast from a number of different angles.

Mr Herbert also showed clips of cameras at the rear of the shop being “tampered with”, allegedly by one of the defendants.

Mary Ragoobeer with her sons Sean and Shane (Leicestershire Police/PA)

He said: “Even on a camera 50 metres away you can see the explosion and the enormity of what happened.

“It was an explosion, the prosecution say, caused by many, many litres of petrol.

“The explosion and the fire that followed was deliberately caused by these defendants, who intended to profit from loss of stock, contents and future loss of business from the shop.”

Leah Beth Reek (Leicestershire Police/PA)

Mr Herbert continued: “The evidence indicates that, had the crime been successful, the insurance payment would have been in the region of £300,000. It boils down to greed.

“It was not an accident, the prosecution say, that the petrol used caused such devastating damage.”

The defendants were each assisted by a separate Kurdish interpreter during the proceedings and sat in the dock flanked by four security officers.

The court was told about the involvement of Ms Ijevleva in the alleged insurance scam.

Mr Herbert said: “One of those who died, Viktorija Ijevleva, had assisted the defendants to obtain insurance.

“The defendants thought she knew too much and decided to leave her to die in the explosion that they created.

“In other words, the devastation that they caused was carried out with the intention to kill.”

Ali, Kurd and Ms Ijevleva were also captured on CCTV at a B&Q store purchasing smoke alarms in the days leading up to the blast and Mr Herbert said they had also bought four litres of white spirit from Wilkinsons.

He continued: “It is also clear that they would have known that people would have been in the flat above the shop at the time of the explosion.

“And you may think when you hear all the evidence that that fact did not bother these defendants one bit as they sought to maximise the damage caused to the shop.”

Ali, of Drake Close, Oldham, Hassan, of Eld Road, Coventry, and Kurd, of Hillary Place, Leicester, deny all 11 charges against them.

The trial, listed for six weeks, continues.