Sharon Beshenivsky: Detective’s promise to murdered PC’s husband

Image source, West Yorkshire Police

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Sharon Beshenivsky had been a PC for less than a year before she was murdered in Bradford in November 2005

Almost 20 years after PC Sharon Beshenivsky was shot and killed on her daughter’s fourth birthday, the last member of the armed gang responsible for her death has been found guilty of her murder.

The conviction of Piran Ditta Khan, 75, marks the end of almost two decades of evading justice for his part in the killing of the West Yorkshire Police officer after she interrupted a raid at a Bradford travel agents on 18 November 2005.

For Andy Brennan, who was then the detective superintendent tasked with leading the manhunt, Khan’s conviction is the fulfilment of a long-held promise he made to PC Beshenivsky’s husband, Paul, on the day of her death.

“I gave him a commitment on that day that we would go to the ‘nth’ degree to make sure all of those responsible would be placed before the court,” he says.

Before the fatal shooting in Bradford city centre earlier that evening, PC Beshenivsky had been coming to the end of her shift and was soon due to head home to join the birthday celebrations for the couple’s little girl.

Mr Brennan remembers that he and Mr Beshenivsky were still surrounded by unopened cards and presents as he made his promise.

It was “very humbling to see how he controlled himself in front of the children having been given the news of his wife’s death,” Mr Brennan says. “It was an emotional time.”

“I’m a father, but, for me, in that position at that time, I couldn’t show my emotions because Paul was looking at me to tell him what was going on and what we were going to do,” he adds.

Image caption,

Sharon Beshenivsky was a mum to three children and two stepchildren with her husband Paul

PC Beshenivsky, a 38-year-old mother of three as well as two stepchildren, had been an officer for just nine months when she was gunned down in a raid at the Universal Express travel agents.

Shot at close range and left lying on the pavement, her injuries were instantly fatal.

Her colleague, Teresa Milburn, then 37, was also shot and seriously injured at the same time, though she survived the attack.

The pair had been responding to a silent panic alarm which had been activated at the travel agents on Morley Street just 30 minutes before the end of their shifts that Friday afternoon.

In the huge manhunt that followed, the gang, who had escaped with little more than £5,000, were eventually caught.

Image source, West Yorkshire Police

Image caption,

Before Khan was convicted, a further six men had been sentenced in connection with PC Beshenivsky’s death

In 2006, Muzzaker Imtiaz Shah and Yusuf Abdullah Jama were sentenced to life and told they would both serve at least 35 years in jail for PC Beshenivsky’s murder.

A third man, Faisal Razzaq, was cleared of her murder but found guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 11 years.

A year later, Hassan Razzaq, the brother of Faisal, was also convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

That same year, Raza Ul Haq Aslam, was convicted of robbery and jailed for eight years.

However, two suspects remained at large. One was Mustaf Jama, who had used a friend’s passport to flee to his native Somalia. The other wanted man, Piran Ditta Khan, had escaped to Pakistan.

Jama was eventually extradited in 2007 when he was smuggled out of Africa in an undercover operation. The brother of Yusuf Jama, he was found guilty of murder and jailed for life with a minimum term of 35 years.

But it was to be another 17 years before Khan was to face justice for his role as the robbery’s instigator.

Image caption,

Piran Ditta Khan fled to Pakistan after PC Beshenivsky’s murder in 2005, but was extradited in 2023

Back in 2006, when Mr Brennan was piecing together the investigation, detectives built a picture that showed Khan was the mastermind behind the plot.

Khan had used the travel agents to send money to Pakistan and knew that “substantial amounts” of cash would be held at the premises.

Looking back, Mr Brennan says: “The information we were getting was that he was more important in relation to the organisation of what had taken place than any of the other six individuals.

“The more information and evidence we got, the clearer his role became of being an instigator.”

But by the time police were in a position to arrest him, Khan had already fled to Pakistan – something Mr Brennan says was “seriously disappointing”.

Getting Khan back to face justice was a long and drawn-out process.

Because there is no extradition treaty between the UK and Pakistan, a diplomatic request was made by the UK for his removal.

Mr Brennan said: “I spent about 12 to 18 months every week going down to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office.

“I was meeting them on a weekly basis to say, this is the position we’re in, these are the individuals we want back.

“We put pressure on them [the authorities in Pakistan] all the time, but effectively we were in their hands to arrest one of their citizens.”

Image caption,

Andy Brennan attended Leeds Crown Court to see Piran Ditta Khan finally face justice

Up until January 2020, Khan remained free. However, he was eventually arrested in Pakistan, with his solicitor describing him as a “scared and shivering man”.

It then took another three years before Khan was brought back to the UK.

By the time of Khan’s extradition, Mr Brennan had retired from West Yorkshire Police, but recalls being “elated” by the development.

“I knew this was always bubbling away in the background and would never be allowed to go away,” he says.

“When I left the case it wasn’t complete, but it never left me.

“So, when I found out he was on his way back to the UK, I was incredibly pleased. I remember having a glass of wine.”

Mr Brennan describes Khan as a “very dangerous man” who was “incredibly greedy” and “entirely responsible” for what had taken place.

The former officer says: “He managed to persuade a group to commit this robbery on the pretext that there was a significant amount of money there.

“But they fled with £5,000 and committed the murder of a police officer on duty.”

Image caption,

Teresa Milburn, who was also injured, said her colleague PC Beshenivsky did not stand a chance against the gunmen

Now all those responsible for the events of 18 November 2005 have been convicted, Mr Brennan says he believes the bravery of both PC Beshenvisky and PC Milburn should be officially recognised.

“I know this case inside out and I look back on their actions that day,” he says.

“They turned up to a silent alarm taking place – that would usually indicate a robbery or something more serious – and in that knowledge they approached the premises.

“Both Sharon and Teresa are extremely brave to have done what they did. They could have waited by their cars or could have radioed for armed assistance, but they didn’t.

“I think that was down to the fact they wanted to protect the public and make sure the occupants in the travel agents were safe and well.”

Meanwhile, Mr Brennan says that though Khan’s conviction may have been a long time in the making, he was never in any doubt the promise he made to PC Beshenivsky’s family would be fulfilled.

“I made it perfectly clear to Sharon’s family, to Teresa and to the public, that we would leave no stone unturned to get justice,” he says.

“I had a superb team working with me who gave 110%.

“So, in my mind, I was confident we would find everyone involved on that horrific day.”

Reference

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