Friday 19 January 2018

Massereene: Bullets that killed soldiers similar to ones used in Provo attacks

BULLETS fired in a terrorist gun attack that killed two British soldiers were of a make and date similar to those used in Provisional IRA shootings, a court has heard.

One of the two guns used in the ambush in which English sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, were murdered was also used in two previous gun attacks on police stations in Northern Ireland, a firearms expert told Antrim Crown Court.

The two Royal Engineer sappers were shot dead as they collected pizzas with comrades outside the gates of Massereene Army base in Antrim town in March 2009.

They were only hours from flying to Afghanistan to begin a six-month tour of duty and were already dressed in desert fatigues

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 two charges of murder and the attempted murder of six others - three soldiers, two pizza delivery drivers and a security guard.

The murders, which took place four years after the Provisional IRA claimed it had decommissioned its arsenal, were carried out by break-away dissident republican terror group the Real IRA.

Senior forensic scientist Jonathan Greer told the third day of Duffy and Shivers' trial that the 65 bullets found at the scene were M67 cartridges used in AK assault rifles.

He said they were stamped with the code NMY82, indicating they were made by a company in the former Yugoslavia for use by that country's military.

Prosecution QC Terence Mooney asked the ballistics expert if such bullets had been used before in Northern Ireland.

"Cartridges of those manufacture and date have been attributed to the Provisional IRA previously," Mr Greer replied.

The guns used in the attack have never been found but Mr Greer said microscopic inspection had been able to identify which cartridges were fired from which weapon. He called the firearms 'gun one' and 'gun two'.

The scientist revealed that tests had shown that the weapon used in dissident attacks on the outside of police stations in Randalstown and Londonderry's Stand Road in 2004 was gun two. No one was injured in those incidents.

Of the 65 cartridges found at the scene outside Massereene, two had not been fired. Mr Greer said they had been ejected from the barrel of gun one, possibly because they misfired.

He said gun one had fired a total of 26 rounds, while gun two had fired 37.

Noting that the magazine of an AK assault rifle had a capacity of 30 bullets, Mr Mooney asked the witness to interpret what the gunman carrying gun two had done.

"I concluded that because 37 cartridges had been fired that at some stage the rifle must have been reloaded," he replied.

Mr Greer was also asked to interpret bullet holes found on the blood-stained clothes worn by the dead sappers.

He said a number of marks on the back of sapper Quinsey's jacket were fired at close range.

"They were consistent with someone standing over a prone body while it was wearing the jacket and firing down towards it," he said.

Earlier the non-jury trial before Mr Justice Anthony Hart was read statements from medics who had battled in vain to save the lives of sapper Quinsey, from Birmingham, and sapper Azimkar, from London, in the wake of the shootings.

Duffy and Shivers sat impassively in the dock throughout, only yards from relatives of the sappers in the public gallery.

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