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75-year-old ‘mastermind’ of a 2005 armed robbery that killed a UK police officer sentenced to life

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LONDON (AP) — A 75-year-old man will spend the rest of his life in prison after being sentenced Friday for the murder of a British police officer who was shot dead during an armed robbery in northern England nearly two decades ago.

Piran Ditta Khan was convicted in April, as he had fled the country to Pakistan soon after the murder of Sharon Beshenivsky. He was extradited to the U.K. last year.

Judge Nicholas Hilliard sentenced him in Leeds Crown Court to life imprisonment. He must serve a minimum term of 40 years in prison.

“You will inevitably spend the remainder of your life in custody, but that is a consequence of sentencing a man of your age for a crime of this particular gravity,” he said. “You have had your younger and healthier years at liberty because you chose to leave the country when you feared you were about to be arrested.”

Though Khan stayed in the lookout car during the robbery at the family-run Universal Express travel agents in the city of Bradford in November 2005, prosecutors argued that he was the “mastermind” behind the robbery as he organized it and purchased the weapons. Police officers in Britain do not carry guns on routine patrols.

“Even though he did not fire the fatal shot, his actions stole from Sharon and those who knew her a lifetime together, and as he is sentenced today our thoughts remain with her family and loved ones,” said specialist prosecutor David Holderness.

Beshenivsky was 38 years old and only nine months into the job when she responded to an alert about the robbery. She was shot dead at point-blank range by one of the three men who carried out the robbery. Her colleague, Teresa Milburn, survived after being shot in the chest.

Beshenivsky, who had three children and two stepchildren, was gunned down on her youngest daughter’s fourth birthday. In a victim personal statement read in court, Beshenivsky’s daughter Lydia said she was “too young and innocent” to understand what happened when her mother failed to return home from work to celebrate her birthday.

“There will always be a void in my life — a void that should have been filled with my mum’s presence but as a result of violent, callous actions by you, Piran Ditta Khan, and your associates that day, you robbed me of a future and precious time with my mum,” she said. “Every birthday is a reminder of what happened that day.”

Paul Beshenivsky, who had been married to his wife for four years when she died, said telling the children what had happened was “the hardest thing I have ever had to do.”

Khan fled to Pakistan two months after the robbery. He was arrested by local authorities in Pakistan in January 2020 and extradited to the U.K. last year.

Khan denied the allegations.

By PAN PYLAS
Associated Press

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