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Three men guilty of murder after five killed in Leicester shop explosion

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Three men have been found guilty of murder after they deliberately set fire to a shop in Leicester, causing an explosion that killed five people.

Shopkeeper Aram Kurd, 34, and his friends Arkan Ali, 37, and Hawkar Hassan, 33, plotted to destroy the Polish supermarket in order to claim £300,000 in insurance because the business was failing.

The trial at Leicester Crown Court heard that Ali’s girlfriend, Viktorija Ijevleva, who worked in the shop, was left to die in the blaze because she had been in on the plot and “knew too much”.

“In other words, the devastation that they caused was carried out with the intention to kill,” prosecutor David Herbert QC told the trial.

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

The Ragoobeer family lived in the flat above the shop which was completely destroyed.

Victim Leah Beth Reek
Image:
Victim Leah Beth Reek

Mrs Ragoobeer’s husband Jose was out at work at the time of the explosion. Their third son survived after he was rescued from the rubble.

Mr Herbert told the court that Kurd, Ali and Hassan intended to maximise the damage to the premises and “would have known” people were in the two-storey flat above.

The day before the explosion, Hassan was seen on CCTV buying 26 litres of petrol. The container he put it in was recovered from the wreckage after the fire.

On the night of the blast, Ali doused the basement of the building with petrol before running to be collected in the getaway car, driven by Hassan.

Kurd remained in the shop and emerged soon after the blast, feigning shock and concern for the victims.

In the hours afterwards he did a series of television interviews expressing concern for the people trapped inside the building.

Viktorija Ljevleva died in the blast
Image:
Viktorija Ljevleva died in the blast

But soon police began to suspect the fire was started deliberately.

“The evidence shows that this was a really callous act borne out of greed and financial gain and showed a real disregard for human life,” Detective Chief Inspector Michelle Keen told Sky News.

The trial heard that the explosion was so loud that people nearby thought a bomb had gone off.

Kurd chose not to give evidence during the trial. Both Ali and Hassan went into the witness box to claim they did not know of any plan to set fire to the shop.

Mr Herbert told the jury “they are remorseless, callous men dominated by greed, who have proved they’re capable of trampling over the boundaries of basic human decency and honesty”.

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