A former asylum seeker accused of being a getaway driver for men who allegedly blew up a corner shop killing five people has insisted: ‘I would not do this even for my mum or dad.’
Hawkar Hassan is on trial with a shopkeeper and a third man for allegedly blowing up a Polish supermarket in Leicester as part of an insurance scam in February.
Prosecutors say on the night of the blast Hassan waited in a white Audi before driving alleged accomplice Arkan Ali away from the scene.
Aram Kurd, 34 (right) Arkan Ali, 37 (centre) and Hawkar Hassan, 33 (left) are accused of blowing up the Polish grocery store in Hinckley Road, Leicester on February 25
A picture shows the enormity of the blast at the Polish grocery shop in Leicester that the three men are accused of blowing up on purpose
But Hassan today told a jury he knew nothing of an alleged bogus £300,000 insurance claim and that he only found out about the blast on Facebook the following morning.
He told the jury he did drive co-defendant Arkan Ali away from Leicester on February 25, but did not see the explosion, despite turning on to the same road a few minutes later.
Hassan admitted he was in Costa Coffee when the trio allegedly hatched a plan to destroy the shop, but the 33-year-old told the court he would have left if he heard ‘one word about it’ and had spent the time watching football.
On the morning after the incident, Hassan said he had travelled to Leicester to try to find victim and alleged co-conspirator Viktorija Ijevleva and co-defendant Aram Kurd, but did not go with Ali as he was ‘not in a good mood’.
Hassan, Ali, 37, and shopkeeper Kurd, 34, pleaded not guilty to five counts of murder and five alternative counts of manslaughter.
They also deny conspiring with 22-year-old Ms Ijevleva, the partner of Ali, to make a gain, by dishonestly pursuing a claim on an ‘overinflated’ insurance policy in respect of a fire at the shop.
Viktorija Ijevleva (pictured) 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
Ms Ijevleva, 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.
Continuing his questioning of Hassan at Leicester Crown Court on Thursday, defence counsel Peter Birkett QC asked: ‘Was there any discussion when you were at Costa Coffee about starting a fire at Zabka?’
The defendant replied: ‘If I heard one word about it I would have gone back to Coventry.’
Mr Birkett continued: ‘The suggestion, or the allegation, is made that you were the getaway driver and you were to drive Ali away after the fire and explosion had taken place.’
Hassan replied: ‘No, I would never do this. This is wrong. It is not my business, it is nothing to do with me. I would not do this even for my mum or dad. No.’
Addressing the moment he drove Ali away from the scene, Mr Birkett said to Hassan: ‘It is alleged that you must have seen the result of the explosion to your left.’
The defendant said: ‘When I came out of the junction I looked to the left. No car. I then looked to the right side.
‘Because cars were coming from the right side I had to look more to the right side.’
Emergency services are pictured at the scene of the explosion on February 25, with a police cordon stretched across the road in front of the destroyed three-storey building
Victim Leah Beth Reek is pictured with her boyfriend Shane Ragoobeer before they both died in the explosion
Hassan told the court Ali had said nothing about the explosion to him.
Asked when he had found out about the explosion, Hassan said: ‘I saw it on Facebook in the morning.’
Mr Birkett asked: ‘From what you saw, was it clear that it was Zabka?’ to which Hassan replied: ‘I said (to Ali) look at this, it looks like Aram’s shop. He said yes.
‘I said ‘where’s Viktorija? He said Viktorija had not come back home. He said last night he kept ringing Aram and Viktorija and they didn’t answer.’
Mr Birkett asked Hassan how he felt when he saw it was Zabka which had been destroyed. ‘I was shocked,’ he said.
Hassan said he came to the UK in the back of a lorry in 2002, seeking asylum when he was 16, after his father was murdered in Kurdistan. He was granted British citizenship in 2008
Ali, Hassan and Kurd deny all 11 charges against them. The trial, listed for six weeks, continues.
Mother Mary Ragoobeer was killed with her two sons while her husband Jose escaped
Mary Ragoobeer, 46, her teenage sons Shane and Sean (pictured together) and 18-year-old Leah Beth Reek, 18, who was Shane’s girlfriend, were killed in the blast in February
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