killer who fled to a lawless region of one of the world’s most dangerous
countries was captured and returned to Britain after a top-secret
Mustaf Jama, who was found guilty yesterday of the murder of PC Sharon
Beshenivsky during a bungled armed robbery in 2005, was the country’s
most wanted man when he escaped on a false passport. For the next two
years he lived under the protection of his powerful warlord family in a
remote district of northern Somalia.
After months of intelligence-gathering, high-level diplomatic
negotiations and an agreed “bounty” payment to cover the costs of the
Somali authorities, a secret military operation was launched to capture
On an October morning in 2007 Jama was at the wheel of a Land Rover,
accompanied by two young women, a gun and a large quantity of alcohol,
when he approached what he thought was a routine roadblock. When the
vehicle came to a halt, it was surrounded by 15 armed soldiers.
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Jama was seized and taken to a secure compound, where he was held under
guard overnight. The next day he was taken to an airfield where a six-seater
executive jet was waiting.
Although the pilot thought Jama must be an al-Qaeda terror suspect and
initially refused to take him, the killer, escorted by Somali guards,
was flown to Dubai to be met by five West Yorkshire police officers.
After spending the night at an airport detention centre, Jama was placed
on a scheduled flight to Heathrow.
At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday he was jailed for life for his role
in the fatal shooting outside a Bradford travel agency. Jama, who will
serve a minimum of 35 years, was one of three armed robbers who burst
from the premises as two unarmed women police officers approached.
The robbers opened fire and PC Beshenivsky, 38, who was married with
three children and two step-children, was hit in the chest at close
range. She died almost instantly. PC Teresa Milburn was shot and
Jama, who admitted robbery but denied murder, claimed during his trial
that he did not know that his accomplices were carrying guns.
Yesterday’s conviction followed a retrial after an earlier jury failed
to reach a verdict.
Mr Justice Openshaw said that Jama belonged to “a team of dangerous and
ruthless men” whose actions led to two police officers paying “a
terrible price” for doing their duty.
Jama’s younger brother, Yusuf, and Muzzaker Shah are already in jail for
the murder, each with minimum 35-year sentences. A further three men
received sentences ranging from eight years to life for their roles in
the robbery. The five men were convicted at earlier trials.
Detective Superintendent Andy Brennan, who led the murder inquiry and
the international hunt for Jama, had vowed to track down the wanted man.
Fulfilling his promise involved lengthy and delicate negotiations
between the police, intelligence agencies, the British Government and
war-torn Somalia’s Federal Transitional Government. The two countries
have no extradition treaty.
After two foiled attempts, the West Yorkshire force finally received
accurate intelligence about Jama’s whereabouts in the breakaway northern
region. The roadblock operation was dangerous because the Jama family
wields local influence. Jama’s father is a cousin of Mohamed Siad Barre,
the former President, who seized power in 1969 and headed a brutal
regime until he was toppled in 1991.
Jama was 12 when he was brought to Britain with his mother and two
siblings by a Kenyan people-trafficker in 1993. By 2005 he had 21
criminal convictions, including three robberies.
On his return to Britain, Jama challenged his extradition. The appeal
was dismissed, but a court order prevented the reporting of the
extradition until the conclusion of the murder trial.
Mr Brennan said that Jama “thought he was untouchable” in Somalia. “Our
determination to arrest and convict all those involved in the murder of
Sharon Beshenivsky has been resolute. No matter where they were, we were
going to find them and bring them to justice.”
Piran Ditta Khan, 60, believed to be the architect of the botched
robbery, remains at large, possibly in Pakistan.
From The Times July 23, 2009