Leicester trio jailed for life for shop explosion

|News, Violent crime

Three men have been sentenced to life in prison for murdering five people in an explosion in a shop in Leicester.

Aram Kurd, Arkan Ali and Hawker Hassan were all found guilty of murder at Leicester Crown Court in December and today (Friday 18 January) sentenced to life in prison. Kurd and Ali were given a minimum term of 38 years and Hassan 33 years.

The three planned the explosion to profit from an insurance claim. On Sunday 25 February, they set a fire in the basement of the shop Kurd was renting on Hinckley Road. The claim would have been worth in the region of £300,000. They set the fire using a large amount of petrol and other flammable fluids to cause the maximum damage.

The resulting explosion ripped through the shop and the flat above. Mary Ragoobeer and her two sons Shaun and Shane were in the flat above, together with Shane’s girlfriend Leah Reek. Viktorija Ijevleva, an associate of the group, was in the shop itself. Another member of the Ragoobeer family was pulled from the rubble and survived. A passer-by was also seriously injured in the blast.

The three defendants were initially charged with arson and manslaughter. However, once all the evidence gathered by the investigation was fully considered, the defendants were further charged with murder.

During the trial, the CPS presented evidence that the defendants intended to kill Ms Ijevleva to prevent her from revealing their plan and to increase their share of the insurance claim. Whilst they set out to kill her, they were well aware that their actions would put the lives of the people in the flat upstairs in danger, so were guilty of murdering all five victims.

Janine Smith from the CPS said: “This incident and the tragic loss of life shocked the whole community and this has been reflected in the significant sentences handed down today. The law is clear – acts intended to kill or cause serious harm are murder. The CPS asked the court consider when sentencing them their premediated actions, that they knew people were in the flat above, that they were motivated by financial gain and that five people died as a result of their actions.

“The loss of these innocent lives for the pursuit of financial gain is a particularly distressing part of this case. My thoughts and sympathies are with the families and loved ones of all the victims.”

Background:

Aram Kurd was renting the Polish supermarket, Zabka. The enterprise had not been successful. He was making a loss on the shop, so together with Ali and Hassan he devised the plan to cause a fire and claim on the insurance. Arkan Ali and Viktorija Ijevleva arranged an insurance policy earlier in the month to cover the building. The day before the explosion, Hassan, Ali and Viktorija bought over 26 litres of petrol and disguised the container. They then drove to Zabka, and moved the CCTV camera on an adjoining property so it would not show them going in and out. The petrol and other fluids were distributed around the basement and ignited shortly before 7pm on 25 February. 

Ali was captured on CCTV leaving the rear of the premises just before the explosion. He met up with Hassan who was waiting nearby. Despite the catastrophic and immediate effects of the explosion, which some local residents initially believed to be an earthquake or a bomb, they fled the scene and drove to Coventry in the full knowledge that Viktorija had been left behind. Aram Kurd meanwhile hid outside at the back of the shop and then emerged onto the street as passers-by came to help, claiming he had been caught up in the explosion himself.   

At an early stage there was sufficient evidence that Kurd, Ali and Hassan were responsible for the explosion and therefore the deaths of the victims, so they were initially charged with arson and manslaughter. As the investigation progressed, it became clear that their intention was to kill.  A witness reported that Kurd had confessed he did intend to kill Viktorija as she “knew too much” and he did not want to split the insurance money with her.

The amount and content of the flammable liquids used as well as the defendants’ movements and phone contact with each other before and after the explosion showed that their actions were quite deliberate and that the outcome had been carefully planned.  New charges of murder were therefore laid in August 2018.

Notes to editors

  • Janine Smith is Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS East Midlands

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