Massereene murderer Brian Shivers is terminally ill
TERMINALLY-ILL killer Brian Shivers knew he had only three or four years to live as he plotted to gun down two soldiers about to depart for Afghanistan.
Doctors told the gang member of his imminent death from suffocating cystic fibrosis four months before sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey were shot dead.
A fellow regular in the Queen Street pub in the small town of Magherafelt, Co Derry, said: "If he killed those two soldiers, then he deserves everything he gets."
Unemployed Shivers, (46), was part of a large family from the wider south Derry area, a part of the world steeped in traditional republicanism and a bulwark of the IRA's 30-year campaign.
His uncle owned a butcher's shop in the town and he has brothers involved in a property business. His father Pat was a plasterer from nearby Toomebridge and Shivers was one of five children growing up.
"He was always a very private person, you never knew quite what he was thinking," the bar customer said.
"You certainly would not have thought he was involved in anything like a terrorist attack.
"The whole town has been talking about nothing else during the trial. It was hard to believe some of the stuff you were hearing."
On the day of the March 2009 killing, the divorced father of one breakfasted at a cafe in Magherafelt, then helped organise the ambush.
Security cameras photographed his silver Mercedes in Magherafelt following what prosecutors believed was the Vauxhall Cavalier used in the attack.
He left his house at Sperrin Mews in the town at around teatime after telling his partner Lisa Leacock that he was attending a farewell party for some Slovakian friends.
Instead, he was part of a team intent upon murder.
Shivers' part was never specified by the prosecution but his DNA was found on struck matchsticks found on the back seat of the getaway car.
The vehicle did not burn properly and was discovered intact by police.
A mobile phone containing his DNA was also recovered from the Cavalier.
Prosecution barrister Terence Mooney QC told Belfast Crown Court sitting in Antrim: "From the evidence, the court may infer that it was the intention of the perpetrators and any who contributed their assistance to those perpetrators... to shock and shake the community by the exercise of lethal force against a number of targets, resulting in the death and wounding of those persons."
The accused, dressed in jeans and a dark jacket during long days in the dock, faced many challenges in his life.
He whimpered from the pain in his back and had to be excused to walk around to relieve his suffering mid-trial.
He even fell asleep under the influence of strong painkillers, snoring in the crowded courtroom. Because of his condition he had to drive almost everywhere.
Shivers, who also had a gambling habit and frequented Magherafelt's bookmakers and pubs, coped with what was thought to be chronic bronchitis as a child.
With the development of cystic fibrosis, he ate Chinese and other fatty food in a battle to maintain his weight, even though it could take him much longer than others to dine. He also battled with the impact on his digestive system of the disease, spending long periods in the bathroom.
Despite his death sentence, at the time of the Massereene attack, Shivers was trying to conceive a child with his fiancee Lisa Leacock, who was worried that his illness was affecting his fertility.
The pair spent hours discussing the problem, his partner telling the court she devoted much of her time to seeking cures online - surfing the web in the vain hope of a future on the night her partner was committing murder.
Ms Leacock, a Protestant who received a bullet in the post and verbal abuse after her connection to Shivers became known, also told the court of her fears that her boyfriend would cheat.
Often she would not let him go out alone on a Saturday night and she had set a deadline for him to be back on the night of the killing.
Shivers told his partner he was going to a farewell party in Belfast for some Slovakian friends - but admitted in court that he changed his mind, claiming he went to his brother's house instead, after eating his traditional Chinese meal and attending Catholic Mass in Toomebridge.
He protested his innocence and opposition to violence in blunt terms in the witness box. But it was his inability to produce an alibi during the crucial hours of the attack and his friendship with notorious Irish National Liberation Army member Dominic McGlinchey's son which helped make up Mr Justice Anthony Hart's mind.
Dominic McGlinchey Jnr, accused by lawyers in the Massereene case of being involved in the attack but never charged with the killing, was in Shivers' house several times a day.
He invited the defendant to meetings of socialist republican organisation Eirigi and they attended several times.
But Shivers told the court he was not inspired by the party's ethos, that he supported Sinn Fein and the peace process. He had no prior convictions.
Shivers' father Pat, a civil rights activist, was one of 12 internees known as "the hooded men".
In August 1971, they were stripped naked, dressed in boiler suits, forced to stand in a search position, beaten, subjected to white noise, and deprived of food, water and sleep for eight days.
In a case supported by the Irish government, the European Court of Human Rights found the British government guilty of "inhuman and degrading treatment".
Shivers Snr was one of hundreds of men arrested during internment. A dozen were taken away for sensory deprivation experiments by British soldiers, including being transported in helicopters while their heads were covered by hoods.
According to his wife, Pat Shivers received no food for a week, was not allowed to sleep and was continuously interrogated. He was made to stand with his arms stretched out and legs spread-eagled for hours on end until he collapsed. This happened several times.
He was kicked and pushed and when he lost consciousness he was revived to begin the whole thing over again.
A doctor attended him from time to time and took his blood pressure. He lost consciousness on many occasions and became convinced that he was dying. He was photographed naked in various positions. Questioning continued without ceasing.
Shivers too claimed that he was assaulted, by police during a bail visit when he allegedly answered the door to officers while naked. He was subsequently charged with indecent exposure and resisting arrest.
The defendant was finally led away in handcuffs today - facing many years behind bars with the early release of his fatal illness beckoning.