Murder of Sharon Beshenivsky
14 January 1967|
18 November 2005 (aged 38)|
Bradford, West Yorkshire, England
|Department||West Yorkshire Police|
|Badge number||PC 6410|
PC Sharon Beshenivsky (14 January 1967 – 18 November 2005) was a West Yorkshire Police constable shot dead by a criminal gang during a robbery in Bradford on 18 November 2005, becoming the seventh female police officer in Great Britain to be killed on duty. Another police officer, PC Teresa Millburn, was also shot in the incident, being seriously injured but surviving. Millburn had joined the force less than two years earlier; Beshenivsky had served only nine months in the force at the time of her death.
Closed-circuit television cameras tracked a car rushing from the scene and used an automatic number plate recognition system to trace its owners. This led to six suspects being arrested; three were later convicted of murder, robbery and firearms offences; two of manslaughter, robbery and firearms offences; and one of robbery. A seventh suspect remains at large.
Beshenivsky had been serving as a police officer for nine months. She had previously been a police community support officer (collar #268) with West Yorkshire Police. Having been a constable for just nine months, she was classed as a probationer under the supervision of an experienced colleague.
On the afternoon of 18 November 2005, Beshenivsky and Millburn responded to reports that an attack alarm had been activated at a travel agent on Morley Street in Bradford. Upon arrival the officers encountered three men who had robbed the agent of £5,405; two were armed with a gun, another with a knife. One of the gunmen fired at them immediately at point-blank range, fatally wounding Beshenivsky in the chest and also hitting Millburn in the chest, before all three men made a getaway in a convoy of cars.
Beshenivsky was the seventh female officer to die in the line of duty in England and Wales, the second female officer to be fatally shot (the first was Yvonne Fletcher in London in 1984), and the first female officer to die in an 'ordinary' gun crime (Fletcher was shot during a protest at the Libyan embassy in London).
On 25 November 2005, police named Somali brothers Mustaf Jama, aged 25, and Yusaf Jama, aged 19, as well as 24-year-old Muzzaker Imtiaz Shah as prime suspects. Yusaf Jama was arrested in Birmingham the following day and was subsequently charged with murder and robbery. On 12 December 2005, Shah was arrested in Newport, South Wales; he was later also charged with Beshenivsky's murder. Mustaf Jama had fled to Somalia but was extradited two years later. The use of recently installed automatic number plate recognition technology in Bradford city centre played a vital role in identifying the suspects prior to their arrest.
On 18 December 2006, Yusuf Jama was found guilty of all charges against him, including the murder of Sharon Beshenivsky. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 35 years. This was expected to keep Yusuf Jama imprisoned until at least 2040 and the age of 60.
|Mustaf Jama||Murder; robbery; firearms||Life with 35-year tariff|
|Yusuf Jama||Murder; robbery; firearms||Life with 35-year tariff|
|Muzzaker Shah||Murder; robbery; firearms||Life with 35-year tariff|
|Faisal Razzaq||Manslaughter; robbery; firearms||Life with 11-year tariff|
|Hassan Razzaq||Manslaughter; robbery; firearms||20 years|
|Raza Ul-Haq Aslam||Robbery||8 years|
Muzzaker Shah was also sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 35 years, which was also expected to keep him in prison until at least 2040 and the age of 60.
Faisal Razzaq, a 25-year-old from London, was cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 11 years before being considered for parole. This was expected to keep him imprisoned until at least 2017 and the age of 36. He had driven the lead car of the gang's convoy from Leeds to Bradford and acted as a lookout during the robbery.
On 2 March 2007, Hassan Razzaq, the 26-year-old brother of Faisal, was also convicted of manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He had also acted as a lookout. Raza Ul-Haq Aslam was a third lookout and was sentenced to eight years in prison for a single robbery offence.
All of the suspects except Aslam were also found guilty of robbery and a series of firearms offences.
On 1 November 2007, Mustaf Jama was extradited from Somalia after an undercover Home Office operation and taken into police custody at Bridewell police station in Leeds. He was charged the next day with the murder of Beshenivsky, appeared before Leeds magistrates, and was remanded into custody. On 22 July 2009 at Newcastle Crown Court, Mustaf Jama was found guilty of murder and was also told that he would serve at least 35 years in prison, which is expected to keep him in prison until 2044 and the age of 64. It later transpired that he had been released from prison (having been convicted of burglary and robbery offences) just six months before Beshenivsky's murder and that he had been considered for deportation to his native Somalia but Home Office officials ruled it was "too dangerous".
Yusuf Jama and Muzzaker Shah appealed for their sentences to be reduced. The High Court heard their appeals but agreed with the trial judge's recommended minimum term for both men and rejected the appeals. In November 2010, Mustaf Jama made an application for permission to appeal his sentence. The Court of Appeal rejected his application in March 2011.
Hewan Gordon was jailed for eighteen months in 2007 for helping Shah evade capture. In 2010 he won an appeal against a government bid to deport him back to Somalia. His appeal was understood to have been made on human rights grounds and drew heavy criticism from police, politicians and Beshenivsky's family.
The alleged mastermind of the robbery, Piran Ditta Khan, remains unapprehended. It has been reported that the 50-year-old fled to Pakistan. A reward of £20,000 has been offered for information leading to his arrest.
In 2014 police renewed their appeal for information that might lead to Khan's arrest. Detective Superintendent Simon Atkinson said: "This investigation is not yet complete and will not be until everyone involved in any way in the murder of PC Beshenivsky is brought to justice. We have not, and will not leave any stone unturned in our search for justice. The £20,000 reward on offer remains and I would like to take this opportunity to appeal again to the people of Pakistan or to anyone who knows where this man is to get in contact."
In June 2007, Muzzaker Imtiaz Shah received an additional nine years to his sentence for firearms offences committed during a car chase in 2004.
In December 2007, Yusuf Jama was also convicted of conspiracy to rape and handed an additional twelve years to his sentence. The case related to the gang rape of a woman at a house party in Birmingham some days after Beshenivsky's murder.
Faisal Razzaq was handed an additional seven-and-a-half-year sentence in June 2007 for possessing prohibited firearms in 2004.
On 18 August 2006, the rugby league club Bradford Bulls made a presentation on the pitch at their home stadium during the half-time interval of a match with Castleford Tigers, in Beshenivsky's honour. Her widower Paul, along with the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police Colin Cramphorn, were guests as Bradford Bulls chairman Peter Hood unveiled a memorial bench in her honour, which was to be placed in the club's reception area. On 8 May 2009, a memorial to Beshenivsky was unveiled at the location of her death. At the unveiling, then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to the officer's "dedication, professionalism and courage". Michael Winner, chairman of the Police Memorial Trust, also praised Beshenivsky and police officers across the country, saying: "Take them away and there's total anarchy and we are devoured by the forces of evil."
In November 2008, the far right British National Party was condemned for using the murder as an example of racially motivated crime in a piece of literature which was circulated to potential voters. Opponents of the party's policies were keen to point out that there was no obvious racial motive to the murder, and that the killers would obviously have killed anyone of any ethnic background who might have attempted to foil them.
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