independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Mum of murdered soldier brands appeals decision as "scandalous"

THE MOTHER of a British soldier shot dead in Northern Ireland has branded a decision to quash the conviction of the man jailed for their murder as "scandalous".

Geraldine Azimkar - whose sapper son Patrick, 21, was gunned down with Mark Quinsey, 23, outside Massereene Army barracks in Antrim - spoke out after the Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled the verdicts in the non-jury trial of Brian Shivers were unsafe and quashed his 25-year sentence.

Speaking from her home in London, she said the decision had left her and Patrick's father Mehmet Azimkar disillusioned with the criminal justice system.

Colin Duffy, from Lurgan, Co Armagh, was acquitted of the murder charges at the trial at Antrim Crown Court last year.

"It seems scandalous really that this terrible murder happened and the attempted murders happened and it looks like no one is going to be held to account for it," Mrs Azimkar said.

"We feel very let down by the criminal justice system. It does not seem to work for the victims of crime.

"The whole thing is awful from start to finish."

Shivers' appeal against additional convictions on six counts of attempted murder and one of possession of two firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life was also allowed by the Court of Appeal.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) must consider whether to apply for a retrial for the 47-year-old from Magherafelt, who is terminally ill with cystic fibrosis.

He will remain in custody pending the PPS's decision.

Last January, judge Mr Justice Anthony Hart, who has now retired, found that Shivers set light to the getaway car used in the attack.

Mr Justice Hart said he was satisfied that DNA on burnt matches found at the scene belonged to the defendant.

But the Court of Appeal ruled that such an act, after the shootings, was not sufficient to prove that Shivers was guilty of the role of secondary party in the murders.

The summary of judgment said: "The Chief Justice (Sir Declan Morgan) said that the court did not accept that a person who provides assistance after a murder with full knowledge of what has happened becomes guilty of murder and that there was no authority to support such a proposition."

Sappers Quinsey and Azimkar were gunned down at the gates of the barracks as they stepped outside to collect a pizza delivery in March 2009.

They were hours from deploying to Afghanistan and were already dressed in desert fatigues.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Our thoughts remain with the families of Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey at this extremely difficult time."

A Public Prosecution Service spokeswoman said: "The PPS will inform the Court of Appeal of its decision whether or not it's seeking a retrial."

The Real IRA claimed responsibility for the double murder.

Mrs Azimkar praised the police and PPS for their efforts, laying blame on the justice system for failing victims and their loved ones.

"It is the failure of the criminal justice system, which is very highly loaded in favour of the defendant and therefore against the interests of victims and their loved ones," she said.

"We feel there is no justice and it is going to be very hard to get peace in Northern Ireland when they see there is no justice."

The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal found that Justice Hart's judgment had not examined whether Shivers' actions were as part of a joint enterprise to murder.

In his appeal decision, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said the point at which a secondary party lent assistance in a murder attack was key.

He said that Justice Hart had made no finding as to when Shivers knew about the plot.

"The Chief Justice said it was the view of the court that this was not a secondary party case in which contemplation of an offence arose and that a conviction on that basis was unsafe," the summary stated.

Shivers' lawyers argued that while the prosecution had presented the case against him as murder as part of a joint enterprise, the judge had convicted him of murder as a secondary party.

They said under the second definition, setting fire to the car after the event was not enough find him guilty.

Tom Elliot, the justice spokesman for the Ulster Unionist Party, said: "This verdict will be the cause of great disquiet amongst many in the wider community.

"The cowardly murder of Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar at Massereene barracks in Antrim in March 2009 shocked the entire community.

"These murders took place in the same month as the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll and demonstrated all too starkly that republican terrorists still retained the capacity to murder, a point which has been reinforced by the murder of Constable Ronan Kerr and other attacks.

"Whilst justice must be allowed to take its course, it is clear that the investigation into the Massereene murders must be pursued with renewed vigour.

"The seriousness of this crime demands that those responsible be caught, prosecuted and convicted as a matter of urgency."

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