Alleged getaway driver denies being part of explosion plot which killed five people

COURT SKETCH: Aram Kurd, 33, Arkan Ali, 37, and Hawkar Hassan, 32, in the dock at Leicester Crown Court. Photo: SWNS EMN-181112-104046001
COURT SKETCH: Aram Kurd, 33, Arkan Ali, 37, and Hawkar Hassan, 32, in the dock at Leicester Crown Court. Photo: SWNS EMN-181112-104046001
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A 33-year-old man has denied being the getaway driver in a plot which led to an explosion in Leicester which killed five people, including Asfordby teenager Leah Reek.

Hawker Hassan told a jury at Leicester Crown Court he ‘would not do this even for my mum or dad’ when asked if he was involved in the blast which reduced a shop and the apartment above it to rubble.

Hawkar Hassan, who the court was told was a former asylum seeker, said he had no part in, and was not told anything about, the alleged bogus £300,000 insurance claim, and had found out about the blast on Facebook the following morning.

He told the jury he did drive co-defendant Arkan Ali away from Leicester on the fateful day of February 25, but did not see the explosion, despite turning on to the same road a few minutes later.

Hassan admitted he was in Costa Coffee when the trio allegedly hatched a plan to destroy the shop, but told the court he would have left if he heard ‘one word about it’ and had spent the time watching football.

On the morning after the incident, Hassan said he had travelled to Leicester to try to find victim and alleged co-conspirator Viktorija Ijevleva and co-defendant Aram Kurd, but did not go with Ali as he was ‘not in a good mood’.

Hassan, Ali (37) and 34-year-old shopkeeper, Kurd, pleaded not guilty to five counts of murder and five alternative counts of manslaughter.

They also deny conspiring with 22-year-old Ms Ijevleva, the partner of Ali, to make a gain, by dishonestly pursuing a claim on an ‘overinflated’ insurance policy in respect of a fire at the Hinckley Road shop, which was called Zabka.

Ms Ijevleva, Mary Ragoobeer (46), her teenage sons Shane and Sean, and 18-year-old Leah, who was Shane’s girlfriend, were all killed in the blast, which happened shortly after 7pm.

Continuing his questioning of Hassan, defence counsel Peter Birkett QC asked: “Was there any discussion when you were at Costa Coffee about starting a fire at Zabka?”

The defendant replied: “If I heard one word about it I would have gone back to Coventry.”

Mr Birkett continued: “The suggestion, or the allegation, is made that you were the getaway driver and you were to drive Ali away after the fire and explosion had taken place.”

Hassan replied: “No, I would never do this. This is wrong. It is not my business, it is nothing to do with me. I would not do this even for my mum or dad. No.”

Addressing the moment he drove Ali away from the scene, Mr Birkett said to Hassan: “It is alleged that you must have seen the result of the explosion to your left.”

The defendant said: “When I came out of the junction I looked to the left. No car. I then looked to the right side.

“Because cars were coming from the right side I had to look more to the right side.”

Hassan told the court Ali had said nothing about the explosion to him.

Asked when he had found out about the explosion, Hassan said: “I saw it on Facebook in the morning.”

Mr Birkett asked: “From what you saw, was it clear that it was Zabka?” to which Hassan replied: “I said (to Ali) look at this, it looks like Aram’s shop. He said yes.

“I said ‘where’s Viktorija? He said Viktorija had not come back home. He said last night he kept ringing Aram and Viktorija and they didn’t answer.”

Mr Birkett asked Hassan how he felt when he saw it was Zabka which had been destroyed. “I was shocked,” he said.

Ali, of Drake Close, Oldham; Hassan, of Eld Road, Coventry; and Kurd, of Hillary Place, Leicester, deny all 11 charges against them.

The trial continues and is expected to last into the Christmas holidays.