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Leicester explosion: Shopkeeper and accomplices are jailed for life

The mother of a teenage girl who died in a ‘bomb-like’ shop blast has spoken of her fury as the ‘exceptionally callous’ killers were jailed for the murder of five people today.

Aram Kurd, 34, Arkan Ali, 38, and Hawkar Hassan, 33, were sentenced to life behind bars over their bungled plot to gain a £300,000 insurance pay-out.

They planned to set fire to Kurd’s Polish supermarket, but caused an enormous blast which killed three members of one family as they slept in their flat above the shop.  

Care worker Mary Ragoobeer, 46, and her two sons Shane, 18, and Sean, 17, died in the inferno, as did Shane’s girlfriend Leah Beth Reek, 18.

The gang even left their co-conspirator Viktorija Ljevleva, 22, who worked in the shop, to die in the blaze as she ‘knew too much’ about the insurance policy.

Ms Reek’s mother, Joanne Reek, faced down the defendants to read an emotional statement in court, in which she said she was ‘disgusted’ by their actions.

 

Three men have been jailed for life for the murder of five people. (L-R) Aram Kurd, Arkan Ali and Hawkar Hassan

The shop was turned into an inferno after the blast on February 25. Two brothers and their mother were killed along with Leah Beth Reek and the killers' accomplice 

The shop was turned into an inferno after the blast on February 25. Two brothers and their mother were killed along with Leah Beth Reek and the killers’ accomplice 

 Leah Reek and Shane Rajoobeer who were dating died together in his family home 

 Leah Reek and Shane Rajoobeer who were dating died together in his family home 

She said: ‘We know that nothing will ever bring Leah back. We’ve lost our daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece and friend, and no conviction or prison sentence will ever match ours and the pain that we will endure forever.

‘Seeing the men on trial, showing no remorse for our and the Ragoobeers’ loss, truly broke our hearts and disgusted us, showing that they have no value of human life.

‘Leah would have made a difference in this world. She was a positive, kind, beautiful human being who was cruelly taken for no reason other than greed.

‘I would finally like to say, Leah, we will always love you and the world was definitely a brighter, happier, bubblier place with you in it. We love you forever, until we meet again.’

Passing sentence today at Leicester Crown Court, Mr Justice Holgate said the trio showed ‘no remorse’ and detailed how shopkeeper Mr Kurd gave interviews to media hours after the inferno killed five. 

After the blaze, brazen Kurd shamelessly gave TV interviews describing how he was lucky to escape the explosion.

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

Kurd and Ali must serve a minimum term of 38 years, while Hassan must serve at least 33. 

Molly Reek, whose sister Leah died in the explosion, reads a statement on behalf of the families outside of Leicester Crown Court

Molly Reek, whose sister Leah died in the explosion, reads a statement on behalf of the families outside of Leicester Crown Court

Leah Reek's devastated mother, Joanne Reek (pictured with her husband John), read a statement from the witness box in court

Leah Reek’s devastated mother, Joanne Reek (pictured with her husband John), read a statement from the witness box in court

Sean Rajoobeer, 17 (left) and Shane Rajoobeer, 18, and their mother Mary, three of the five victims of the Hinckley Road explosion in Leicester

Sean Rajoobeer, 17 (left) and Shane Rajoobeer, 18, and their mother Mary, three of the five victims of the Hinckley Road explosion in Leicester

Leah Reek’s devastated mother, Joanne Reek, read a statement from the witness box in court.

She said: ‘We know that nothing will ever bring Leah back. We’ve lost our daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece and friend, and no conviction or prison sentence will ever match ours and the pain that we will endure forever.

‘Seeing the men on trial, showing no remorse for our and the Ragoobeers’ loss, truly broke our hearts and disgusted us, showing that they have no value of human life.

‘Leah would have made a difference in this world. She was a positive, kind, beautiful human being who was cruelly taken for no reason other than greed.

‘I would finally like to say, Leah, we will always love you and the world was definitely a brighter, happier, bubblier place with you in it. We love you forever, until we meet again.’

Ali, Kurd and Hassan were convicted of five counts of murder as well as conspiracy to commit fraud after a jury deliberated for 11 hours and 20 minutes.

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Holgate told Kurd, Ali and Hassan: ‘None of the defendants has shown the slightest bit of remorse for their wicked crimes. They were exceptionally callous and deceitful.

‘I agree with the prosecution that it is plain beyond doubt that Kurd and Ali were both centrally involved in the planning of these crimes.

‘It is plain from the way they both behaved in court and outside that they are highly manipulative and cunning individuals.’

The judge added: ‘The arson attack on this terraced building was exceptionally dangerous and put the lives of neighbours and other members of the public at a high level of risk. The defendants caused an exceptionally high level of harm.’

The aftermath of the Hinckley Road explosion in Leicester where three members of the same family were killed

The aftermath of the Hinckley Road explosion in Leicester where three members of the same family were killed

Leah Reek’s sister Molly bravely spoke outside court and thanked the police and local community for their help and support.

She said: ‘While today’s sentencing will not bring the ones we love so dearly back to us, it has provided a degree of closure to us all.

‘The last 11 months have been the worst months of our lives and sitting through the trial only added to our pain and heartbreak.

‘But we will now try to move on as best as we can together, never forgetting those we love so much – who we will always think about with every passing day.

‘The support we have received from our family, friends, community and Leicestershire Police has helped us to get through the toughest of years.

‘My parents are extremely grateful to their employers for the care and compassion they have been shown and I know that Jose would like to also thank English Martyrs School and the Bodie Hodges Foundation for the support they have shown.

‘I would like to thank our family liaison officers for the care and compassion they have shown since that fateful night.

‘Their role was paramount and we will be forever grateful for having them on our journey – providing clarity to a process so alien to us and bringing us calm when it all got too much to bear.

‘We are also extremely grateful to the investigation team led by Detective Chief Inspector Michelle Keen who has helped bring these men to justice.’

Viktorija Ijevleva helped buy litres of fuel in the days before the fire as she prepared to cash in on the insurance plot

Viktorija Ijevleva helped buy litres of fuel in the days before the fire as she prepared to cash in on the insurance plot

CCTV and traffic camera footage released by police 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. 

The mother of Viktorija Ijevleva apologised on behalf of her daughter.

Natalija Ijevleva said she felt she ‘failed as a mother’ to the 22-year-old and that she ‘could have stopped’ her from going ahead with the fraud.

Her victim impact statement, read by prosecutor David Herbert QC, said: ‘I am heartbroken that she didn’t tell me because she told me everything.

‘I could have stopped her from going ahead and prevented this tragedy. I feel I failed as a mother to protect my child.

Devastated: Jose Ragoobeer whose wife and two sons were killed stands outside Leicester Crown Court 

Devastated: Jose Ragoobeer whose wife and two sons were killed stands outside Leicester Crown Court 

‘My thoughts again go out to the families of the four wholly innocent victims, their loss must be indescribable.

‘I can only apologise on behalf of Vika, my child, who I also will never have back.’

The husband father of Shane and Sean Ragoobeer said all his ‘hopes and dreams for the future have been taken away’.

His statement, also read out by Mr Herbert, said: ‘The events of that day have changed our lives forever. All of our hopes and dreams for the future have been completely shattered.

‘I have lost a loving wife and two sons whom I adored. My son Scotty, who has only recently turned 16 years of age, has lost his mother and his two brothers.

‘We were both extremely close to all of them. Scotty was also close to Leah (Reek) and misses her too. They were our life.’

The statement continued: ‘All our hopes and dreams for the future have been taken away from us by what happened on 25th February 2018.

‘Mary, Shane, Sean and Leah will be greatly missed and our lives will never be the same without them. They were all good people and did not deserve for this to happen to them.

‘They will never be forgotten and will always be remembered for the rest of our lives by both myself and Scotty, along with all of our family and friends.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk