Monday 26 June 2017

Court sees chilling video of Massereene soldiers being gunned down

Steven McCaffery

CHILLING video footage played today at the trial of two men for the murders of two soldiers showed the moment the servicemen were gunned down by masked attackers.

Sappers Patrick Azimkar, 21, from London, and Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham, were ambushed by the dissident republican Real IRA outside the Massereene Army barracks in Antrim, Northern Ireland, on March 7 2009.



High-profile republican Colin Duffy, 43, from Forest Glade in Lurgan, Co Armagh, and Brian Shivers, 46, from Sperrin Mews in Magherafelt, Co Derry, deny charges of murder and attempted murder.



Their trial opened at Antrim Crown Court today and the packed room fell silent as CCTV images of the murders were played.



As Terence Mooney QC opened the Crown's case, he told how the habit of collecting pizzas at the gates of the base had left the troops vulnerable to attack.



He played the footage which showed five soldiers, wearing desert combat gear and only hours away from being deployed to Afghanistan, walk out of the base to meet pizza delivery cars.



Two masked men then appeared, opening fire on the soldiers and the fast-food workers, before pausing to aim at what the prosecution said was wounded men who lay on the ground.



Mr Mooney later played an audio clip of a voice message said to have been accidentally left on a mobile phone found in a green Vauxhall car, believed to have been the getaway vehicle.



"The message is chilling and self-explanatory," he told the judge, Mr Justice Anthony Hart.



The court then heard an audio clip of a male voice: "There were a few dead all right."



A later excerpt added: "Have to say boys you were as cool as f***."



The troops from the 38 Engineer Regiment were about to begin a tour of duty in Afghanistan when they were gunned down in the attack by the Real IRA group, which opposes the Good Friday peace deal of 1998.



The parents of the murdered men were in court and wore remembrance poppies.



As the hearing opened, Mrs Azimkar and a tearful Mrs Quinsey comforted each other.



The grieving families sat on one side of the accused men.



On the opposite side sat relatives of the defendants.



Shivers, who is on bail because he suffers from cystic fibrosis, wore jeans and a dark coat.



Prison officers escorted Duffy into the court.



He is being held on remand at Maghaberry prison in Co Antrim where he is involved in a so-called "no wash" protest.



Duffy, who wore a long beard as a result, smiled and gave a thumbs-up to his family as proceedings began.



Mr Mooney opened the case for the prosecution and detailed the events of the night of the attack, which claimed the lives of the two soldiers and left others at the scene seriously injured.



"On March 7 2009, a surprise and murderous attack was carried out by terrorists using automatic assault rifles," he said.



"The targets were unsuspecting and utterly defenceless soldiers and civilians who were gathered at the entrance gates to the base.



"The nature of the attack and the manner in which it was executed bears the unmistakable stamp of a highly organised and ruthless terrorist attack."



He suggested to the court that relatives of the murdered soldiers might wish to leave prior to the screening of the footage of the shootings.



Both grieving mothers left just before the images were shown.



Mr Mooney said: "The evidence will show that an ad hoc and rather disorganised system for delivering food to the barracks had evolved over time.



"This system exposed the soldiers at the main gates for some time."



He added that security at the camp had become relaxed.



The lawyer said soldiers at the base phoned around 20 orders a week to local fast food outlets and, in particular, a pizza delivery shop in the town.



The court saw photographs taken in the immediate aftermath of the attack and they showed the base had high fencing and its entrance had a military sangar.



But there were often disputes over food orders when they arrived, and the troops would be outside the base for some time talking to delivery staff.



On the night of the killings Mr Mooney said the masked gunmen approached the troops as they discussed their pizza order with two delivery men who had arrived in their own cars.



The killers fired 65 rounds in an attack that CCTV pictures showed lasted for around one minute.



Mr Mooney said: "Chillingly, the gunmen moved in and shot some of their victims as they lay on the ground."



He said a soldier injured in the attack recounted how he was pushed to the ground by his colleague Patrick Azimkar, who was subsequently murdered.



He said a pathologist's report showed the soldiers killed in the shootings suffered multiple bullet and shrapnel wounds.



Those injured included the other three soldiers, a security guard and the pizza delivery men.



Expert analysis had, said Mr Mooney, linked the images of the getaway car to a vehicle found by police on a quiet country road seven miles from the scene.



The case continues.



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