Court hears how three suspects set off explosion which killed Leah and four others

Emergency services at the scene on Hinckley Road in Leicester, where five people were killed in an explosion, including Leah Reek (18), of Asfordby'PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 27, 2018.  Aaron Chown/PA Wire EMN-181121-122021001
Emergency services at the scene on Hinckley Road in Leicester, where five people were killed in an explosion, including Leah Reek (18), of Asfordby'PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 27, 2018. Aaron Chown/PA Wire EMN-181121-122021001
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A shopkeeper and two other men waited for darkness before murdering five people, including Asfordby teenager Leah Reek, in an explosion, ‘hoping their evil plans would go unnoticed’, a court has been told.

Leicester Crown Court heard that Arkan Ali was a ‘prime candidate’ for having doused the basement of a Leicester Polish shop with petrol before the blast and ensuing fire in February.

The jury was also told co-defendant, Hawkar Hassan, remained nearby in a white Audi and was ‘in reality... up to no good’ as he acted as a getaway driver.

The prosecution said shopkeeper Aram Kurd had been communicating with Ali on alleged victim Viktorija Ijevleva’s phone to tell him ‘all was ready’ so he could ‘light the petrol himself’.

The trio allegedly hatched their plan for the explosion in an 80-minute meeting in a coffee shop as Ali’s partner, Ms Ijevlev, was in the store, which was called Zabka.

The blast had devastating consequences, because Leah (18) was visiting her boyfriend, Shane Ragoobeer, at his family’s flat above the shop.

The property was destroyed, killing them both, and his mother, Mary (46) and brother, Sean.

Prosecutor David Herbert QC said the defendants claimed that, as the explosion took place, they drove away from the shop on Hinckley Road, Leicester, in ‘blissful ignorance’, which he said ‘defies credibility’.

Ali (37), Hassan (33) and Kurd (34), have pleaded not guilty to five counts of murder and five alternative counts of manslaughter.

The trio 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 worth around £300,000 in respect of a fire at the shop. Ms Ijevleva also died in the explosion.

Family members of some of those killed were in tears in court as disturbing bodycam footage was shown.

Passer-by, Thomas Lindop, could be seen under the rubble with a severe head injury.

Cries for help could also be heard on the video.

Continuing to address the court, Mr Herbert spoke of how witnesses saw a car, allegedly containing the three defendants, drive away from the shop following the blast.

He said: “A witness noticed at least the driver was looking at the scene of the explosion.

“They will attempt to claim they drove off back to Coventry in blissful ignorance of it all. You may think that defies credibility.”

The jury of seven women and five men saw CCTV footage of Kurd carrying different items into the shop on the afternoon of February 25.

The court was told that Ali and Kurd were in contact with each other moments before the explosion and the white Audi remained parked nearby.

Addressing the moments before the devastating blast, Mr Herbert said: “They were, you may think, waiting for darkness and they hoped their evil plans would go unnoticed.”

The trial continues and is expected to last for another two weeks.