A shopkeeper and two other men doused his Polish supermarket in petrol to cause an explosion as part of a failed £300,000 insurance scam that killed five people, a court heard.
Shop owner Aram Kurd, 34, Arkan Ali, 37 and Hawkar Hassan, 33, are accused of blowing up the Polish grocery store in Hinckley Road, Leicester on February 25.
The trio allegedly doused the shop in ‘many, many litres of petrol’ before setting it on fire, which caused an explosion so loud neighbours thought a bomb had gone off.
The blast, which devastated the community, killed four members of the family living in the two-storey flat above.
Kurd, Ali and Hassan are also accused of conspiring with shop worker Viktorija Ijevleva, 22, to bag the insurance money and then leaving her to die inside the building because she ‘knew too much’.
Mary Ragoobeer, 46, her teenage sons Shane and Sean, and Leah Beth Reek, 18, who was Shane’s girlfriend, were also killed in the horror explosion.
Aram Kurd, 34 (right) Arkan Ali, 37 (left) and Hawkar Hassan, 33 (centre) are accused of blowing up the Polish grocery store in Hinckley Road, Leicester on February 25
Leicester Crown Court today heard how some in the neighbourhood thought a bomb had exploded
Opening their trial at Leicester Crown Court today, David Herbert QC told a jury the defendants intended to maximise the damage to the premises and ‘would have known’ people were in the flat above, but it ‘did not bother them one bit’.
Ali, Hassan, and Kurd have already pleaded not guilty to five counts of murder and five alternative counts of manslaughter at a previous hearing.
They have also denied conspiring with Ms Ijevleva to make a gain, by dishonestly pursuing an insurance claim in respect of the fire at the shop.
Mrs Ragoobeer’s husband Jose escaped the blast, something the prosecution described as a ‘miracle’.
Addressing the jury, Mr Herbert said: ‘At 7.01pm on the evening of February 25 2018, a massive explosion occurred in the basement of premises here in Leicester.
‘So massive that some in the neighbourhood thought it was a bomb that had exploded.
‘The explosion and the proceeding fire demolished a building and killed five people in the building – one person who was in the shop and four who were in the flat above enjoying a peaceful night in.’
The jury was shown CCTV footage of the horror blast from a number of angles.
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
The jury also heard that the defendants intentionally ‘left Viktorija Ijevleva (pictured) to die’ in the explosion and fire which was started in the basement of the building
Mr Herbert said: ‘Even on camera 50 metres away you can see the explosion and the enormity of what happened.
‘It was an explosion, the prosecution say, caused by many, many litres of petrol.
‘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.
‘The evidence indicates that, had the crime been successful, the insurance payment would have been in the region of £300,000. It boils down to greed.
‘It was not an accident, the prosecution say, that the petrol used caused such devastating damage.’
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
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
Police cars, fire engines and ambulance vehicles are pictured parked outside the shop
An aerial view of the scene of the explosion in Leicester, where five people died
The defendants were each assisted by a separate Kurdish interpreter during the proceedings and sat in the dock flanked by four security officers.
The court was also told about the involvement of Ms Ijevleva in the alleged insurance scam.
Mr Herbert said: ‘One of those who died, Viktorija Ijevleva, had assisted the defendants to obtain insurance.
‘The defendants thought she knew too much and decided to leave her to die in the explosion that they created.
Mother Mary Ragoobeer was killed with her two sons while her husband Jose escaped
Victim Leah Beth Reek is pictured with her boyfriend Shane Ragoobeer before they both died in the explosion
Leah Beth Reek, 18, was in the flat with her boyfriend Shane when the explosion happening – killing them both almost instantly
‘In other words, the devastation that they caused was carried out with the intention to kill.
‘It is also clear that they would have known that people would have been in the flat above the shop at the time of the explosion.
‘And you may think when you hear all the evidence that that fact did not bother these defendants one bit as they sought to maximise the damage caused to the shop.’
Ali, of Oldham, Hassan, of Coventry, and Kurd, of Leicester, deny all 11 charges against them. The trial, listed for six weeks, continues.
Aftermath: The shop in Hinckley Road, Leicester was completely destroyed along with the flat above it after the horrific explosion in February
A court sketch shows the three defendants (Hassan, Ali and Kurd pictured left to right) in the dock at Leicester Crown Court today
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