A trio of “exceptionally callous and deceitful” killers have been jailed for life after murdering five people in a “bomb-like” shop blast.
Aram Kurd, Hawkar Hassan and Arkan Ali destroyed a Polish supermarket on Hinckley Road in Leicester in a £300,000 insurance scam.
They plotted to douse the basement of the building in “many, many litres of petrol” in an arson attack on Kurd’s supermarket in Leicester – destroying the shop and the flat above.
Shop worker Viktorija Ijevleva, 22, was left to die in the explosion by the men because she “knew too much” about the insurance policy, taken out less than three weeks earlier.
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 on Sunday February 25 last year.
Ali, 38, Hassan, 33, and Kurd, 34, were unanimously convicted of five counts of murder and a further charge of conspiring with Ms Ijevleva to make a gain, by dishonestly pursuing an insurance claim in respect of the fire.
Ali, of Drake Close, Oldham, and Kurd, of Hillary Place, Leicester, were both jailed for a minimum of 38 years, and Hassan, of Eld Road, Coventry, was handed a 33-year sentence.
The judge described Ali and Kurd as the ones “centrally involved in the planning” – calling their behaviour “highly manipulative and cunning”.
Passing sentence at Leicester Crown Court on Friday, Mr Justice Holgate said: “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 three defendants were flanked by eight dock officers throughout the hearing, which they all followed through a Kurdish interpreter.
Shopkeeper Kurd wept throughout as victim impact statements were read out and his mitigation was put forward.
The families of the victims were also emotional as the killers were jailed.
Ali smirked as he left the court, while weeping Kurd and Hassan, who had showed no emotion throughout, looked at the floor.
Before the defendants were sent down, the statements of the victims’ families were read to a packed courtroom by prosecutor David Herbert QC and Joanne Reek, Leah’s mother.
A statement read on behalf of Jose Ragoobeer 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.”
Mrs Reek, who went into the witness box to read her statement, said: “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.”