The Telegraph 2024-04-04 16:00:38


Piran Ditta Khan found guilty of murdering Pc Sharon Beshenivsky

The man behind the armed robbery that led to the fatal shooting of Pc Sharon Beshenivsky has been found guilty of her murder.

Piran Ditta Khan, 75, was arrested in Pakistan in 2020 and extradited to the UK last year to be charged with the murder of the 38-year-old, who was shot “at almost point blank range” on Nov 18 2005.

Pc Beshenivsky was killed as she and Pc Teresa Milburn responded to a report of a robbery at Universal Express travel agents in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

Khan was convicted of murder by a majority of 10-1 on Thursday after 11 jurors at Leeds Crown Court deliberated for almost 19 hours over four days.

He was found guilty of two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, also by a majority of 10-1, and unanimously convicted of two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon. He had previously pleaded guilty to robbery.

Khan was brought back to the UK last April and taken into custody at a West Yorkshire police station, where he was charged with murder, robbery, two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon.

Pc Beshenivsky, mother of three and step-mother of two, was nine months into her role with West Yorkshire Police. She was the seventh policewoman to be killed on duty in Britain.

She died on her four-year-old daughter Lydia’s birthday, hours before she had been due to hold a party at home in Haworth, West Yorks, with a cake baked and presents wrapped. Pc Millburn, her colleague, survived her injuries.

Three men were jailed for life for her murder and two for manslaughter in 2006 and 2007. Khan, who was accused of planning the robbery, was believed to have fled to Pakistan following the murder.

The Crown Prosecution Service authorised the charges in 2006, leading to an extradition warrant being issued for the former bouncer.

He was arrested in Pakistan in January 2020 following an operation involving the National Crime Agency and local partners, and appeared in an Islamabad court at the time to discuss his extradition.

Prosecutors said Khan, who was also a former takeaway boss, was the group’s ringleader and, although he did not leave the safety of a lookout car during the raid, played a “pivotal” role in planning it and knew loaded firearms were to be used.

They told jurors that this made him guilty of Pc Beshenivsky’s murder “as surely as if he had pulled the trigger on that pistol himself”.

He was the only one of the group who was familiar with Universal Express and had used it in the past to send money to family in Pakistan, the court heard.

Khan told jurors he had no knowledge that a robbery was going to be carried out, or that weapons were going to be taken.

He claimed that Mohammad Yousaf, the business’s owner, owed him £12,000 and that debt collector Hassan Razzaq offered to get his money back after the pair met through a business associate.

Khan said he thought that the men Razzaq sent would “intimidate” the staff at Universal Express or at worst “slap them”.

Prosecutor Robert Smith KC said Khan’s claim of being defrauded was an “entirely false” attempt to explain why he was in Bradford at the time of the robbery and murder.

In a statement following the conviction, Detective Superintendent Marc Bowes, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Today, as always, our thoughts remain with Pc Sharon Beshenivsky and her family. Sharon went to work to protect the public. She responded to a call for help alongside her colleague Teresa, but tragically never came home.

“This verdict is the culmination of 18 years of hard work, tenacious grit and determination to bring Khan before the courts.”

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Russia makes ‘threatening call’ to French minister

Russia made a “threatening” call to France warning that it hopes French secret service agents were not involved in last month’s terror attack in Moscow. 

“The comments by the Russian side were bizarre and threatening,” Emanuel Macron, the French president, told reporters, adding that any suggestions France might have been involved in the deadly attack were “ridiculous”.

Details of the call came as Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said that relations between Russia and Nato “have now slipped to the level of direct confrontation” on the 75th anniversary of Nato.

On Wednesday, Sebastien Lecornu, the French defence minister, reached out to his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, saying France was ready to step up exchanges to battle “terrorism”, the French defence ministry reported.

The talks, the first between the two countries since 2022, were intended to express “solidarity” following the attack, in which at least 144 people were killed at a concert venue outside Moscow, and to share intelligence on its origin, Mr Macron said.

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Sunak must take Israel arms issue ‘very seriously’, says ex-head of British Army

Rishi Sunak must take a warning from hundreds of lawyers about suspending arms sales to Israel “very seriously”, a former head of the British Army has said. 

Lord Dannatt, the former chief of the general staff, said Mr Sunak would “do well to take note of” a letter signed by more than 600 lawyers which called on the Government to suspend sales. 

He said there are both moral and legal issues about the supply of arms to Israel and the UK “needs to stay on the right side of both of those lines”. 

He told Sky News: “I think the Prime Minister will do well to take note of, I am told it is as many as 600 senior judges and lawyers, who have signed this letter. And I think their experience and their interpretation of the law, international law, needs to be taken very seriously. 

“And I think the British government needs to do, as the Prime Minister has said, scrutinise very carefully what it is doing in terms of supplying equipment to Israel to make sure that we are staying on the right side of the law. 

“And of course it is not just a legal issue, there is a major moral issue here too which the atrocious attack 36 hours ago which killed seven aid workers really underlines. There are moral issues and there are legal issues and I think the UK being the sort of country that it is, needs to stay on the right side of both of those lines.”    

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Live Bulgarian police find ‘Hamas-linked weapons stash’

Bulgarian police have discovered a stash of weapons linked to four suspected Hamas members previously arrested on suspicion of planning an attack on Jewish targets in Europe. 

Four suspected members of the Palestinian militant group were detained in Germany and the Netherlands in December 2023, with German prosecutors arguing they were gathering weapons to be “kept in a state of readiness” for use in future terrorist attacks. 

Der Spiegel, the German media outlet, reported police had found photos of pistols, ammunition and magazines on a mobile phone belonging to one of the men on Wednesday, leading investigators to a stash of weapons in Bulgaria.  

German authorities said the four suspects – one Egyptian, two Lebanese and one Dutch national – were “longstanding members of Hamas”, the group whose Oct 7 attack on Israel triggered war in Gaza.

“The weapons were due to be taken to Berlin and kept in a state of readiness in view of potential terrorist attacks against Jewish institutions in Europe,” they said.

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My 20-year-old son was paralysed after diving into a swimming pool – the NHS made his short life unbearable

On June 13 2020, our 20-year-old son dived into the shallow end of a friend’s swimming pool and broke his neck. 

Tom was at the end of his second year of a business studies degree at Durham University. Friends leapt in and saved his life: Tom only survived because he was so young and fit – qualities that would later serve to work against him. 

In the period after his accident and before he died, Tom’s life was made unbearable because of the way he was treated by the NHS. Because of their refusal to contribute, my husband and I spent so much money we are currently having to sell our house. Now, with the help of our MP, we are trying to change health service policy towards young adults with spinal injuries

This tragedy could have happened to any other parent, which is why I’m telling my story – so no parent has to go through something like this ever again.

“There wasn’t one person on this green earth like you and I’m certain there will never be another again,” said Tom’s best friend, Will, in his eulogy. “‘Laz’ had an energy that would light up any room, with his infectious laugh, pure heart, witty charm and cheeky smile,” added Lolly, another friend. Tom had so many friends. They told us he was so popular because he never judged anyone. Tom was a talented cricketer and golfer, with plans to work in finance when he left university.

Until that day nearly four years ago, we were a happy family. I was an art teacher; my husband Marcus is a barrister. We have three other children: Theo and George, now aged 28, and Kate, now 18. Tom was devoted to his dogs Poppy, Buster and Jumble. 

June 13 was a sunny day. Lockdown was just lifting and I was walking my dog along Beachy Head. At around 3pm my phone rang: it was Tom’s friend Felix. “Tom’s had an accident, but don’t worry,” he said, “the ambulance is on its way.” I knew immediately that I had to worry. I switched into practical mode, got in my car and drove to nearby Etchingham, East Sussex, where the party was taking place. I was a mum, I was going to sort this out and make sure Tom was sent to a good hospital. More importantly, I had to let Tom know how much I loved him before he was taken away.

Tom was conscious and lying at the side of the pool when I arrived. He was paralysed. But he wasn’t hysterical; in fact, he was rather calm: he had thought he was going to die in the water. I discovered Tom had dived into the pool, but for some reason his arms had moved awkwardly and he had hit his head on the bottom of the pool. 

We later found out that Tom had a compression injury. He had fractured his C4 and C5 vertebrae, he also had a small break at C1. His spine had jammed into his neck and bounced back again, like an elastic band. The fact Tom was so fit had made the impact worse, though it also meant he survived his injuries, where others may not have done. An air ambulance arrived: Tom was taken to intensive care at King’s College Hospital in London, while doctors assessed how serious and how permanent his injuries might be. It was a case of “watch and wait”.

For the first 10 days, Tom seemed to be making progress. He regained arm movement and some hand movement. But then he reacted to an anesthetic during an operation for a tracheostomy to help his breathing. His temperature soared, leading to a condition called rhabdomyolysis. 

This meant that Tom’s muscles disintegrated, leading to the failure of his kidneys. He had to be put onto dialysis. He was unable to open his eyes or breathe unaided. The tracheostomy meant he was unable to speak for three months, having to point out letters in the alphabet to spell out words. For Tom, that was the worst part of all. 

As you can imagine, our anxiety as parents was indescribable. But all our energy was spent pushing and fighting against the Covid protocols, still in place in summer 2020. We had to fight for everything: fight for the young doctors to read Tom’s notes properly, fight to be allowed to see him for more than three hours a day. For as long as Tom was alive, I was not going to collapse. His friends played a massive part in keeping his spirits up, with his schoolmate Gracie setting up a rota so people could come and see him, bringing Poppy, his spaniel, to visit him.

The NHS was brilliant at saving Tom’s life, by sending the air ambulance and the initial emergency care. However, once the immediate crisis had passed, they did not seem to place a priority on valuing his life afterwards. It felt as though the entire system was stacked against us. 

We were never told definitively that Tom would never walk again – we found that the doctors preferred not to be precise. But in October, Tom was discharged to Stoke Mandeville for rehab, still unable to walk, use his arms, or speak properly. He was placed on a ward with two 50-year-old men and not allowed to leave the room. It was effectively imprisonment. 

The hospital pool was closed; the gym filled with PPE. Physiotherapy was restricted to four 45-minute sessions a week and Tom had no speech, occupational, or psychological therapy. We were only allowed to come and visit him because Durham University wrote a letter insisting he wouldn’t be able to continue his degree without support from his family. 

On Christmas Day, I went to visit Tom in hospital. To avoid being thrown out, I hid under his bed every time a nurse came in. Eventually, they threatened to call security. It was like an episode of Keystone Cops.

All these indignities were appalling, but far worse were the long-term plans the NHS had for Tom. 

Six days after arriving at Stoke Mandeville, we were informed there would be no “Continuing Care” money available to help his recovery at home with his family. Instead, Tom would be discharged to a care home. This would not be a specialist rehab facility, but a geriatric home with elderly people. There would only be basic medical care, and no requirement to provide rehabilitation, vital for mental and physical health. 

On hearing this prognosis, Tom mustered enough voice to tell his case-worker to “f— off”. He knew this wasn’t an empty threat. One of his fellow patients, a man in his 40s with young children, was later sent to such a facility. 

One doctor told us: “Get your son out of that s— show now.” Two nurses at Stoke Mandeville came to see me separately and said it was vital to get him away from the hospital. 

We had enough money saved, and were supported by amazing friends, for Tom to spend six weeks at Steps, a rehab facility in Sheffield, where he made good progress and made great friends. But in July 2021, it was time for him to come home and I had to give up my job to look after him. 

As we had refused to send Tom to a care home, the authorities effectively cut him off completely. While we continued to write letters and battle for financial support, we turned to eBay, where we sourced and bought a second-hand hospital bed, a hoist to get Tom in and out of bed, a machine to help him cough (vital for keeping him alive) and a wheelchair. We spent hundreds of thousands of pounds, borrowing money from everywhere and everyone, including my 90-year-old mother. 

I had to watch Australian YouTube videos to learn how to manage Tom’s care and take photographs of machine settings to use equipment needed to keep him alive. I was informed that I could not be shown how to use vital equipment in case it invalidated hospital insurance. 

For the first year at home, Tom did pretty well. His friends continued to rally around, and despite his disabilities, he continued to study for his degree and even traded cryptocurrency. His visits to Crystal Palace Football Club and Wembley Stadium to see his beloved Liverpool win the FA Cup Final helped hugely. Tom spent evenings with his godmother, Mandy: watching Ted Lasso made him howl with laughter. He even had me setting up assault courses for the dogs.

But Tom needed two carers at all times because the risks to his health were so serious. So we hired someone to be with him to support me. 

We were repeatedly refused funding for Tom, despite the fact he clearly met the criteria for NHS continuing healthcare funding. I was even told that Stephen Hawking would have been sent to a care home if he had lived in Lambeth because, as the nurse assessor stated, “it was cheaper”.  

On the day before Tom died, NHS England told us that, for various reasons of bureaucracy, the assessment process would have to start again. I explained that without the funding Tom so clearly needed and obviously met the criteria for, he would die. 

The next day, November 11, Tom’s friend Jonny flew to London from Jersey and took him to see a Crystal Palace match. We thought Tom might have an infection, but he didn’t have a temperature. I went to sleep next to his bed. Tom woke up at 2am, and I told him how much we loved him. He didn’t wake up again. We realised Tom had died as the Armistice Day bells began to ring on Sunday morning.

The devastation of accepting your beautiful, brilliant son has died is difficult to articulate. We knew the man he had become, his dreams, his aspirations, his plans. He was beginning to see some light in his situation and had so many ambitions. 

We are still waiting for an inquest to determine exactly how Tom died, but one theory is that having aspirated some food the week before, he had developed fluid on his lungs. He possibly lost consciousness due a condition related to his spinal cord injury, which causes a dramatic increase in blood pressure. This would not have happened had there been two carers with Tom.

Tom’s funeral took place on December 8 at St Stephen’s Church in Dulwich, where he had performed his primary school carol service. More than 350 friends attended. Theo, George and Tom’s friends carried his coffin. Poppy, Tom’s dog, came with Kate. Choristers sang Once in Royal David’s City. A memorial service in January saw another 350 friends come together and weep and laugh while listening to You’ll Never Walk Alone. These services were exceptionally moving. But no one should have to be at their child’s funeral. 

And so, for this reason, we have continued to seek the help of our MP, Helen Hayes, who has supported Tom throughout this journey. In February, Helen stood up in Parliament, bringing to MPs’ attention the plight of young adults with spinal injuries and the paucity of CHC funding. Helen Whately, the Minister for Health and Social Care, has agreed to look at this issue.

With devastating irony, four months after Tom died, we were informed that he should have qualified for CHC funding from July 2021, the date he came home. The coroner may find that Tom’s death was in part due to the lack of funding and his treatment by NHS England. 

Our mission now is to ensure that no other young adult or family has to fight in the way we have done. 

My husband and I vowed that, in Tom’s memory, we would continue to fight a system that feels like it’s modelled on a Victorian workhouse. Can you imagine how it would feel for a young adult, sent off to a care home, with no agency to live their lives, which could still be so full and productive? 

A spokesperson for Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, which operates Stoke Mandeville hospital, said: “As a centre of excellence, our aim is to support people to lead fulfilling lives and be as independent as possible dependent on their level of spinal cord injury. We fully recognise the fact that individual patients spend many months with us for rehabilitation and the National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC) is effectively their home for this period.  

“As such, we offer an open visiting policy and are proud of our record in supporting patients to lead fulfilling lives, recognised in the award of CARF accreditation – Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities – which is a worldwide organisation. The NSIC is the only such recognised centre in the UK. 

“However, things were very different during the global pandemic, and we were not able to deliver the outstanding levels of care that we aspire to. In line with national guidance, we had to make a number of changes to protect the most vulnerable, which included many of the patients in the NSIC. 

“We also had to restrict visiting. Patients were permitted two named visitors for the duration of their admission and visitors were allocated specific time slots to ensure all inpatients had an equal opportunity to spend valuable time with their loved ones, particularly at times of celebration, such as Christmas and New Year.    

“We appreciate that this was an extremely difficult time for patients and are pleased we are no longer operating under the same restrictions.”

A spokesperson for the South East London Integrated Care Board, said: “We would like to express our deepest sympathy for Tom’s family at this very sad and difficult time. We cannot comment publicly on the details of individual cases, but we have been in contact with Tom’s family and their representatives, and are working with our partners to establish exactly what has happened and to find a resolution.”

As told to Miranda Levy


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Airports miss deadline to end 100ml rule on liquids

Airports are set to miss a summer deadline that would allow passengers to take more than 100ml of liquids on to flights because they were too slow to install new security scanners.

The restrictions were due to be axed on June 1 2024 in a move that would have allowed passengers to fly with up to 2 litres of liquids in their carry-on luggage.

However, a decision to extend the deadline could mean that the onerous conditions are not lifted at some airports until a year later.

It is not the first time the cut-off point has been pushed back. Airports were originally given a deadline of 2022 to roll out the technology, but this was later pushed back to June this year.

The Government has now extended the deadline on a per-airport basis, threatening “serious financial penalties” for any which continue to lag behind.

Consumer champions criticised airport bosses’ failure to make the changes in time and said it was imperative that the new equipment be bought in as quickly as possible.

New X-ray scanner technology was supposed to let airport security staff scan liquids inside hand luggage, giving them a detailed 3D image of the contents instead of the 2D image generated by current scanners.

Ministers are aware of the reasons why airports have struggled to install the new scanners before the previous June 1 2024 deadline, The Telegraph understands.

These include the devices’ weight and size, with one source comparing them to a Ford Transit van.

Some airports have had to reinforce the floors of their terminal buildings to cope with the extra weight.

The Telegraph understands that it could take up to a year for several major airports – including London Stansted, Manchester and East Midlands – to complete the process.

Meanwhile Gatwick Airport said it expects to install its remaining scanners within the first three months of 2025.

‘No fee increase’

Naomi Leach, deputy editor of Which? Travel, said: “It’s imperative that these changes are made as quickly as possible and that the rules at different airports are communicated clearly to passengers.

“Those airports that have failed to install the scanners in time should not increase passenger fees this year – this would be impossible to justify when this key improvement to the passenger experience has not been made.”

Paul Charles, boss of travel consultancy PC Agency, said airports had had long enough to prepare themselves.

He said: “I think consumers will be deeply frustrated and unhappy. They are going to have to have another summer of taking liquids out of their bags to go through the pain of security with these measures still in place.

“We were promised more seamless travel, and airports which were easier and faster to go through.

“Airports have had long enough to plan for this, so it’s a failure for airports to prepare adequately for the summer.”

‘Ensure simplicity’

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade association Airlines UK, said: “Delivering these changes throughout all UK airports will be key to improving airline passengers’ experience.

“The extension of the deadline for those airports who require it will ensure simplicity and ease for customers during this transition.”

Financial penalties will be handed to airports that do not meet the new deadline, although the Department for Transport was unable to say how large these would be.

A senior aviation industry source said of the deadline extension: “It’s a long time coming. Hopefully everyone can get their ducks in a row and get them deployed. And hopefully this provides airports with some certainty heading into the busy summer period.”

Some smaller airports have successfully rolled out the new scanners, including London City and Teesside.

Newcastle Airport has also made the changes, with Luton and Bristol both on target to meet the June 2024 deadline.

‘Major construction projects’

A Manchester Airport Group spokesman said: “We are currently rolling out the new technology lane-by-lane at Manchester and London Stansted airports, with several new lanes already in operation.

“Work is also under way on major construction projects at both Manchester and East Midlands airports to expand the size of the terminals to accommodate the new equipment.”

“This will see the new scanners in place on a large number of our security lanes by June 2024, with the full completion of the programme expected the following year.”

The in-flight liquid limit was introduced in 2006 after British police foiled an Islamist terror plot to detonate explosives on transatlantic flights.

They planned to smuggle liquid explosives disguised as soft drinks in their hand luggage, in what would have been the deadliest terror attack since 9/11.

Last year The Telegraph tested the London City scanners, finding that they were able to handle a full bottle of malbec, a jar of jam and a snow globe among other items all in the same bag.

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Threat to petrol supplies as tanker drivers vote to strike

Union bosses have threatened to disrupt petrol supplies across Britain later this month as tanker drivers prepare to go on strike.

Unite claimed transport company JW Suckling “failed to come to the table” to discuss better pensions for its drivers, who transport fuel to garages.

Drivers who are members of Unite have now voted to take industrial action in the row over retirement benefits and pay. In total, 39 drivers across London, the South East and Scotland are expected to take part in continuous strikes from April 16.

Unite claimed this could hit supplies in some parts of the UK, although it is not expected to cause widespread issues.
Regional officer Nick West said: “There are a host of serious risks that come with being a tanker driver.

“JW Suckling is fully aware of this and is showing massive disrespect to workers. Any disruption caused is a direct result of them failing to come to the table and discuss concerns of our members.”

JW Suckling is part of European fuel group Sustainable Business Growth, which also has operations in France, Spain and Italy. 

On its website, it says it employs more than 200 drivers in the UK and has 115 vehicles. Thousands of people are thought to work as fuel tanker drivers in the UK.

Unite said there would be picket lines at three of the company’s sites from April 16.

A spokesman for Suckling Transport said: “As far as the company is concerned we are continuing to negotiate on the 2024 pay claim, with a next meeting date already agreed by both parties prior to Unite’s press release.

“We have never failed to ‘come to the table’ and we remain committed and open to continue dialogue in the coming days. The next meeting to continue negotiations is on Friday, April 5.”

The threat of petrol disruptions is yet another headache for beleaguered drivers, who have faced a series of issues at the pumps in recent years.

In September 2021, a shortage of fuel delivery drivers led to lengthy queues at petrol stations.

Last year, demonstrators from Extinction Rebellion (XR) and Just Stop Oil blockaded roads used to access oil refineries, causing shortages in some parts of the country.

Earlier this week, the Department for Transport and the Department for Business announced weight limits for road fuel tankers would be relaxed, a temporary exemption that should allow drivers to transport more fuel at any given time.

The Government said it “intends to progress this policy proposal for use in times of fuel supply shortage”.

Britain has been hit by a wave of strike action after surging inflation and the cost of living crisis sowed dissatisfaction with pay deals across multiple industries.

London tube workers are poised to walk out next week, supermarket Asda recently faced industrial action and Border Force officers at Heathrow are also expected to strike this month.

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