Shopkeeper and two others found guilty of murdering five in £300k Leicester shop explosion insurance scam

A SHOPKEEPER and two accomplices who killed five people by blowing up a shop in a botched insurance scam were today found guilty of murder.

Aram Kurd, Hawkar Hassan and Arkan Ali were "not bothered one bit" a family were in the flat upstairs when they torched the building to swindle £300,000.

Care worker Mary Ragoobeer, 46, her teenage sons Shane, 18, and Sean, 17, and Shane's girlfriend Leah Beth Reek, 18, were all killed in the fireball blast in February.

The victims were in the two-storey flat above the Zabka Polish supermarket on Hinckley Road, Leicester.

Shop worker Viktorija Ijevleva, 22, also died. The court heard she was in on the scam and was killed because she "knew too much".

Prosecutors said the defendants waited for darkness before triggering the blast with 27 litres (six gallons) of petrol doused in the shop basement.

Neighbours thought a bomb had gone off as the blast rocked nearby houses and left rubble strewn across the street.

Scotty Ragoobeer, the 15-year-old brother of Shane and Sean, was rescued from the rubble and survived. Passer-by Thomas Lindop, 56, was also seriously injured.

Jurors had been deliberating since before Christmas after a five-week trial at Leicester crown court.

The victims' family members wept in the public gallery as the killers were found guilty of five murders and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.

Outside court Leah's tearful sister Molly Reek said: "A light went out of our world on that terrible night, and it is so difficult to put into words how much we miss Leah.

"She was an amazing, inspirational young lady who was just starting out on her life adventure. Leah made a lasting impression on everybody lucky enough to know her.

"She was beautiful inside and out and she truly shone when she entered a room.

"We will always miss her smile, her laughter and those beautiful curls. Her happy outlook on life was contagious."

Opening the case last month, prosecutor David Herbert QC said the arsonists "would have known" people were in the flat above and it "did not bother these defendants one bit".

He told jurors: "The explosion and the proceeding fire demolished a building and killed five people – one person who was in the shop and four who were in the flat above enjoying a peaceful night in.

"Even on camera 50 metres away you can see the explosion and the enormity of what happened.

"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.

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

On the murder of Ms Ijevleva, the QC added: "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."

CCTV and traffic camera footage released at the end of the trial shows people escaping from a nearby takeaway moments after the explosion, and rubble being blasted into the roadway as cars pass by.

Shop owner Kurd, 34, was recorded on a security camera six minutes before the blast and again as he escaped from the rear of the shop.

In the aftermath, Kurd even shamelessly gave media interviews describing how he was lucky to escape while his employee died.

He said: "I couldn't breathe. Everywhere I could see fire, like I was inside hell.

"For two or three minutes I couldn't feel anything. I was shouting 'Viktorija, Viktorija'.

"For some reason God has decided to keep me alive. I know I am extremely lucky."

Viktorija was with Ali and Hassan when they bought the petrol from a filling station and four litres of white spirit from Wilko.

Other footage recovered by police showed Ali, 38, three days before the blast – moments before the camera angle was moved.

Further images from the same CCTV unit a day before the fire showed a gloved hand moving the camera angle again – at a time when all three defendants were nearby.



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Kurd, of Leicester Ali, of Oldham, and Hassan, 33, of Coventry, face life in jail when they are sentenced in the New Year.

After the verdicts Det Insp Michelle Keen said: "The motive would seem to be purely financial greed and personal gain.

'There was significant investment into the shop's set-up and it is evident that it wasn't as profitable as expected. The intention was to claim against an over-inflated insurance policy for business interruption and contents."

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