Three men today (Tuesday) denied manslaughter charges after five people, including Asfordby teenager Leah Reek, were killed in a shop explosion.
Arkan Ali (37), Hawkar Hassan (32) and 33-year-old Aram Kurd were arrested after the blast destroyed a Polish supermarket and the two-storey flat above it in Leicester on February 25.
Leah (18), a former pupil at Long Field Academy in Melton and Asfordby Captain’s Close Primary School, was killed alongside her boyfriend, Shane Ragoobeer, also 18.
Shane’s mother, Mary (46) and another of her son’s, Sean (17), also died, along with Viktorija Ljevleva (22), in the Hinckley Road blast.
The three defendants also pleaded not guilty to separate counts of arson being reckless as to endanger life and fraud by false representation.
During a 50-minute hearing at Leicester Crown Court, Kurd, wearing a grey jumper, and Hassan and Ali, wearing blue jumpers, only spoke to confirm their names and to deny all seven alleged offences.
Appearing at court via video-link from HMP Woodhill, the three men were told their trial is likely to be heard under a High Court Judge.
Leah’s family said in a statement after the explosion: “Our whole family’s heart is breaking because we have lost our beautiful, bubbly baby girl.
“There is a part of us gone forever.
“We will always miss her cheeky smile and will miss her every day for the rest of our lives.”
Jose Ragoobeer, paying tribute to his wife and two sons after the incident, said: “Our lives will never be the same. What happened that day has affected so many people’s lives. Every day they will all be missed.”
Ms Ljevleva’s mother said: “There are very few children like my beautiful Viktorija.
“Friends were always jealous that I never had any problems with my little one.
“We shared a mutual understanding with one another. We miss her terribly.”
Ali, of Drake Close, Oldham, Hassan, of no fixed abode and Kurd, of Hillary Place, Leicester, were remanded into custody by Judge Philip Head until a further hearing on August 31 at the same court.