London: Three men were found guilty of murder on Friday for causing an explosion in a shop in the UK city of Leicester that killed five people, including three members of an Indian-origin family. The Zabka Polish mini-supermarket and a flat above were completely destroyed in the blast on the evening of February 25, killing three members of the Ragoobeer family who had moved to the UK from Mauritius.
A trial at Leicester Crown Court concluded that shopkeeper Aram Kurd, 34, and his friends Arkan Ali, 37, and Hawkar Hassan, 33, plotted to destroy the shop in order to claim 300,000 pounds in insurance because the business was failing. Ali's girlfriend, Viktorija Ijevleva, who worked in the shop, was left to die in the blaze because she had been in on the plot and "knew too much", the jury was told.
Ijevleva and Mary Ragoobeer, 46, her teenage sons Shane and Sean, Shane's girlfriend, 18-year-old Leah Beth Reek all were killed in the blast. Mary Ragoobeer's husband, Jose, was out at work at the time of the explosion and their third son survived after he was rescued from the rubble. The three men used 26 litres of petrol in the basement of the shop to cause the blast, according to Leicestershire Police.
"It was so powerful it demolished the entire building and killed five people inside. One had been left in the shop and four others were in the flat above, enjoying a peaceful Sunday evening together," Prosecutor David Herbert told the court. He said that Kurd, Ali and Hassan intended to maximise the damage to the premises and "would have known" people were in the two-storey flat above, the home of the Ragoobeers.
Kurd remained in the shop and emerged soon after the blast, feigning shock and concern for the victims. In the aftermath, he also did a series of media interviews expressing concern for the people trapped inside the building. But soon police began to suspect the fire was started deliberately.
The investigation led Leicestershire Police to trawl through more than 700 hours of CCTV footage, and examine more than 2,500 exhibits, 1,000 witness statements and 4,000 different lines of inquiry.
At the end of a five-week trial, the jury found the three charged men guilty of murder.