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Trio killed five in firebomb in bid to claim a £300,000 payout on insurance policy

The aftermath of the explosion at Hinckley Road
The aftermath of the explosion at Hinckley Road
Viktorija Ijevleva
Leah Beth Reek
From left: Hawkar Hassan, Arkan Ali and Aram Kurd have been convicted at Leicester Crown Court of murdering five people in a shop explosion

By Matthew Cooper

Relatives of those killed in the Hinckley Road shop blast gathered at Leicester Crown Court as the officer who led the murder inquiry praised the response of the local community.

Yesterday three men who killed five people in a "bomb-like" shop blast were convicted of murder and plotting to claim a £300,000 insurance payout.

Arkan Ali, Hawkar Hassan and Aram Kurd used "many, many litres of petrol" in an arson attack on Kurd's supermarket - causing an explosion which completely destroyed the shop and a flat above the premises.

Leicester Crown Court heard how some residents living near the Polish supermarket thought a bomb had reduced the property to rubble.

A five-week trial was told the defendants left shop worker Viktorija Ijevleva (22) to die in the building because she was aware of the insurance policy taken out less than three weeks earlier.

Detective Chief Inspector Michelle Keen said Aram Kurd, Arkan Ali and Hawkar Hassan would now feel the full weight of justice for carrying out the "financially-motivated atrocity" and causing "unspeakable" grief.

The officer said: "My heart goes out to the families and friends of all those who died and were injured in the blast and subsequent fire that night.

"I hope they can take some small solace from the outcome of these judicial proceedings."

A statement was read out on court steps by Detective Constable Steve Markley on behalf of Jose Ragoobeer, the husband of Mary and father of Shane and Sean Ragoobeer, killed in the blast. Mr Ragoobeer said Mary was devoted to her family and had two jobs to make sure that her sons had all they needed.

"She always made sure that the boys had the latest gear, including football kits for the teams they supported," he said.

Leah Reek's family said she had been looking forward to training as a nurse.

Her older sister Molly said: "She was an amazing, inspirational young lady who had only turned 18 last July. She was just starting out on her life adventure. In her 18 too-short but wonderful years, she made a lasting impression on everyone lucky enough to know her.

"We miss her terribly, every second of every day we carry the pain of losing Leah. She has left a Leah-shaped hole in our hearts that nothing will ever fill.

"She was too special for anyone that didn't know her to fully understand the impact her death has had on so many."

Opening the Crown's case at the start of the trial, prosecutor David Herbert QC told a jury of seven women and five men the defendants intended to maximise the damage to the premises and "would have known" people would have been in the two-storey flat above.

Ali (38), Hassan (33) and Kurd (34) denied murder and alternative counts of manslaughter. But they were unanimously found guilty of five counts of murder after 11 hours and 26 minutes of deliberations.

They were also convicted of conspiring with Ms Ijevleva to make a gain by dishonestly pursuing an insurance claim in respect of the fire.

Ms Ijevleva, Mary Ragoobeer, (46), her teenage sons Shane and Sean, and Leah Beth Reek (18), Shane's girlfriend, were all killed in the blast on February 25.

Some 26 litres of petrol was used to start the fire in the supermarket basement, triggering a massive explosion at 7.01pm.

CCTV footage released by police yesterday showed people escaping from a nearby takeaway moments after the explosion, and rubble being blasted into the roadway as cars were driven by.

Ali from Oldham, Hassan from Coventry and Kurd from Leicester were remanded in custody and will be sentenced in mid-January.

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