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Trio convicted of murder over shop blast which killed former Norwich student

PUBLISHED: 11:24 28 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:20 28 December 2018

Viktorija Ijevleva, one victim of the fatal explosion in Leicester. PIC: Released by Leicestishire Police.

Viktorija Ijevleva, one victim of the fatal explosion in Leicester. PIC: Released by Leicestishire Police.

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A trio of killers has been convicted of murdering five people, including a former Norwich student, when they burned down a shop for a bogus £300,000 insurance claim.

File photo dated 27/02/18 of emergency personnel at the scene on Hinckley Road in Leicester after a explosion and subsequent fire that destroyed a shop. Aram Kurd, Arkan Ali and Hawkar Hassan have been convicted at Leicester Crown Court of murdering five people in the explosion.  PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday December 28, 2018. See PA story COURTS Explosion. Photo credit should read: Aaron Chown/PA WireFile photo dated 27/02/18 of emergency personnel at the scene on Hinckley Road in Leicester after a explosion and subsequent fire that destroyed a shop. Aram Kurd, Arkan Ali and Hawkar Hassan have been convicted at Leicester Crown Court of murdering five people in the explosion. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday December 28, 2018. See PA story COURTS Explosion. Photo credit should read: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Viktorija Ijeveva, who studied at City College Norwich, was one of those killed in an explosion at the shop in Leicester in February 2018, when Arkan Ali, Hawkar Hassan and Aram Kurd allegedly doused the shop in “a significant amount of petrol” before setting the premises alight.

It was claimed the trio had hoped to claim an insurance pay-out of £330,000 by destroying the Polish supermarket – but investigating officers have said they will “never know what was in their mind” as the men divulged little in police questioning.

The five-week trial was told the defendants left shop worker Ms Ijevleva to die in the building because she was aware of the insurance policy taken out less than three weeks earlier.

Kurd, Ali, and Hassan were convicted at Leicester Crown Court on Friday of murdering five people and were also found guilty of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.

The men showed little emotion at the verdicts, which took the jury just over 11 hours to decide.

The first two defendants were also unanimously convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud, while Hassan was convicted of the offence by a majority 11-1 verdict.

The investigation into the men led Leicestershire police to trawl through more than 700 hours of CCTV footage, and examine 2,500 exhibits, 1,000 witness statements and 4,000 different lines of inquiry.

Police said shopkeeper Kurd, who gave an account to the media after the blast, “probably felt there was a need” to tell his story in a deceitful bid to cover his tracks.

Speaking of the explosion itself, Det Chief Insp Michelle Keen, who led the investigation, said: “The evidence we have identified is that this was a significant amount of petrol – significant such that it caused that level of devastation and five people lost their lives.”

Ms Keen said there were “acts of planning” but that it was unclear whether the men knew they were being watched by CCTV cameras.

“Certainly some cameras were moved in an attempt to avoid detection but we will never truly know what was in their mind as they haven’t told us,” she said.

Ms Ijevleva, who was 22 when she died, studied A-levels and completed a business management degree at City College Norwich, and ended up with a 2:1 in business management accounting and finance BA Hons degree in 2016.

It was claimed earlier in the trial that she was killed as she “knew too much” about Kurd, Ali and Hassan’s plan.

Ms Ijevleva, Mary Ragoobeer, 46, her teenage sons Shane and Sean, and 18-year-old Leah Beth Reek, 18, who was Shane’s girlfriend, were killed in the blast at the Hinckley Road shop.

When asked about Ms Ijevleva’s involvement in the insurance claim, Ms Keen said: “Of course, Viktorija sadly lost her life as a result of this incident so we are unable to understand exactly her full knowledge of what was to come.

“And, the fact is, she is unable to be complicit in her own murder.”

Speaking of the motive behind the killings, Ms Keen said: “The motive would seem to be purely financial greed and personal gain.

“The intention was to claim against an over-inflated insurance policy for business interruption and contents.

“There was significant investment into the shop’s set-up and it is evident that it wasn’t as profitable as expected. This led to the subsequent fire and explosion.”

High Court judge Mr Justice Holgate remanded all three men in custody until sentencing in mid-January.

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