Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Agency robberies 'growing trend'

Police tents outside Universal Express travel agents after Pc Beshenivsky's shooting
Pc Beshenivsky was killed outside the Universal Express travel agents

The armed robbery which led to Pc Sharon Beshenivsky's death was one of a growing number of raids on travel agents in Bradford.

Asian travel agents, particularly those in the Lumb Lane area, told the BBC they were regularly targeted.

It is well-known they are often used by people to transfer significant amounts of cash to relatives in Pakistan.

In 2003 Tasawar Hussain, 36, was shot dead after he chased two robbers from Madina Travel in Lumb Lane.

Shahid Bhatti, owner of the Bradford Travel Centre said he had increased his security since being robbed in 1997.

'Cultural rule'

He said: "Over the past 10 years a pattern has been established of robberies on travel agencies in Bradford. We have been targeted because people know about the money transfers.

"We are in an industry in a market where our clientele use cash to purchase their tickets and cash to remit monies to Pakistan to their loved ones.

"I don't have a credit card. It's a cultural thing, we only spend the money that's in our pocket."

Shahid Bhatti
Shahid Bhatti urged fellow travel agents to increase their security

Mr Bhatti said Mrs Beshenivsky's murder was "extremely worrying", but spending money on an improved security system had made him and his staff more comfortable.

"I know if a criminal wants to attempt a crime they will, but hopefully we are putting them off at least targeting our office." he said.

Mr Bhatti urged any Bradford travel agents who had not already thought about improving their security to do so.

He said: "I think people either think it's going to cost too much or they think that they won't be the targets. Yes, it's an investment but I see it as a capital investment.

"We have a number of staff that we have to look after as well as ourselves."

Earthquake appeal

Sharon Beshenivsky was shot dead after responding to a report of an armed robbery at the Universal Express travel agents on 18 November 2005.

It was raided during Ramadan after Friday prayers, at a time when the robbers knew a lot of cash would be on the premises.

Transferring money through a travel agent was known as one of the quickest ways to send cash to relatives and help those in need after the earthquake in Kashmir the month before.

Sher Khan, a local councillor and friend of the family who ran Universal Express, said: "There was a lot of cash there; people come in with it so it can be wired back home.

"Many extra people have been doing that since the earthquake."

Tasawar Hussain
Tasawar Hussain was murdered after trying to stop a robbery

Ten years ago a security guard was robbed as she collected 15,000 from Mirza Travel, also in Lumb Lane.

Owner Mohammed Mirza, whose other travel agency 10 miles away has also been targeted, said he was "deeply shocked" by Mrs Beshenivsky's murder.

He said something needed to be done to protect businesses like his which dealt with large quantities of cash.

Married father-of-one Tasawar Hussain was shot dead in January 2003 after chasing robbers who stole 40,000 from another travel agents in Lumb Lane. His wife was pregnant with their second child at the time.

In March 2004 Barry Elener and his father Derek, both from Bradford, were jailed for life for Mr Hussain's murder.

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