Shivers guilty of Antrim murders

 

A terminally ill dissident republican was jailed for life today for murdering two British soldiers shot dead outside a military barracks in Co Antrim.

Brian Shivers (46), of Magherafelt, Co Derry, who is suffering from cystic fibrosis, was found guilty by Mr Justice Anthony Hart at a packed and tense Antrim Crown Court.

Earlier, a co-accused, Colin Duffy (44) from Lurgan, Co Armagh, was cleared for his alleged part in the March 2009 ambush on the soldiers at the main gates to the army base at Massereene, even though the judge said DNA evidence found on the tip of a glove linked him to the gunmen’s getaway car.

Sappers Patrick Azimkar (21) from London, and Mark Quinsey (23) from Birmingham, were ambushed by gunmen from the Real IRA outside the Massereene barracks in Antrim on March 7th, 2009.

The two accused had denied the murder charges and six further counts of attempted murder.

Mr Justice Anthony Hart, sitting at Antrim Crown Court, said he was satisfied Mr Duffy’s DNA was found on a latex glove tip inside the car and on a seat buckle but said the prosecution had failed to link the defendant to the murder plot.

"I consider that there is insufficient evidence to satisfy me beyond reasonable doubt that whatever Duffy may have done when he wore the latex glove, or touched the seatbelt buckle, meant that he was preparing the car in some way for this murderous attack. And I therefore find him not guilty," he said.

The non-jury trial lasted six weeks. It ended just before Christmas and Mr Justice Hart took four weeks to consider his verdicts.

The troops from 38 Engineer Regiment were about to begin a tour of duty in Afghanistan when they were killed in an attack by the Real IRA. The soldiers, who were wearing their desert fatigues and were within hours of leaving the base, were collecting pizzas at the front gate when they came under fire.

Four other people, including two pizza delivery drivers, were injured in the gun attack.

A green Vauxhall Cavalier car thought to have been used by the gang was found abandoned in a rural location 12km away. The gunmen set light to the car, but it did not burn out. DNA evidence recovered from it formed the basis for the trial of the two accused.

The judge said the soldiers had been murdered in a hail of gunfire - with the killers firing on the men as the lay injured on the ground. “They were determined to kill as many people as possible,” said the judge. “The gunmen and the driver of the car, as a participant in the attack, were clearly guilty of murder and attempted murder.”

The judge accepted that the DNA subsequently identified was Mr Duffy’s, but he examined other evidence.

Experts had estimated the gunmen were taller than Mr Duffy. This and other factors supported claims he was not in the car.

He rejected the inference that the glove tip was a fabrication to implicate Mr Duffy. But the prosecution had failed to establish the reason for Mr Duffy’s DNA being present in a way which satisfactorily linked him to the murder.

Judge Hart said Shivers had invented an alibi for his movements on the night of the attack and said he was satisfied that DNA found on matchsticks recovered from the partially burnt-out getaway car proved he was the one who tried to set fire to it.

“Taking all of these matters together, I am satisfied that the prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt that Shivers set fire to the Cavalier at Ranaghan Road (where the car was abandoned) and I therefore find him guilty on each count,” said the judge.

Before a silent courtroom, Shivers rose to his feet in the dock as the judge passed sentence.

“There is only one penalty that I can impose upon you,” he said. “And that is one of life imprisonment, which I now do. I now sentence you to life imprisonment.”

Duffy was hugged in the court foyer by relatives before he left the building. He refused to respond to media questions and got into a car which arrived at the scene and drove off.

After the verdicts, Sapper Quinsey’s sister Jaime said: “Mark and Patrick were murdered as a result of a vicious, cowardly act within hours of going to serve their country in Afghanistan. After nearly three years of heartache we have come a little bit closer to justice.”

Sapper Azimkar’s mother Geraldine added: “This was a terrible crime which stole Patrick and Mark’s young lives from them. Losing Patrick has devastated our family and has forever cast a dark shadow over our lives.”

Police vowed that the investigation into the Massereene attack would go on.

“We will continue to pursue all of those involved in these evil murders,” aid PSNI Chief Supt Peter Farrar.

PA

Gallery of images from the Massereene murders