A TERMINALLY-ILL dissident republican will spend his final years in prison after being convicted of murdering two British soldiers in Northern Ireland.
Cystic fibrosis sufferer Brian Shivers (46) was handed a life sentence after a judge found him guilty of being part of the gang that gunned down Sappers Patrick Azimkar (21) and Mark Quinsey (23) outside Massereene Army barracks in Antrim on March 7, 2009.
Just months before unemployed divorcee Shivers, from Magherafelt, Co Derry, took part in the killings, a doctor told him he had only three or four years to live.
His co-accused, high-profile republican Colin Duffy (44), from Lurgan, Co Armagh, was acquitted of the charges in the non-jury trial at Antrim Crown Court by Mr Justice Anthony Hart.
It was the third time in the last two decades that Duffy had walked free after being charged with murdering security-force members.
There were nasty scenes outside the court as the republican emerged, with loyalist demonstrators hurling abuse at him and his supporters as he was driven away in a waiting car.
Earlier, relatives of the two sappers wept openly in court as he was acquitted. But the room fell completely silent an hour later when Justice Hart delivered the guilty verdict for Shivers at the conclusion of the three-hour judgment.
After the verdicts, Sapper Quinsey's sister Jaime said they had got a measure of justice.
"Mark and Patrick were murdered as a result of a vicious cowardly act; they were unarmed and preparing to go 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."
She added: "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.
The English soldiers from the 38 Engineer Regiment were about to begin a tour of duty in Afghanistan when they were gunned down in an attack by republicans opposed to the Good Friday peace deal of 1998.
Sapper Quinsey, from Birmingham, and Sapper Azimkar, from London, were dressed in their desert fatigues and were within hours of leaving the base.
They were collecting pizzas at the front gate when they came under fire. Two other soldiers and two pizza delivery drivers were injured in the gun attack.
Shivers and Duffy were charged with two counts of murder, six of attempted murder and a further count of possessing two machine guns.
DNA on matchsticks found in the partially burned-out Vauxhall Cavalier getaway car used in the ambush and abandoned eight miles away proved Shivers's undoing.
Justice Hart, who accused him of inventing an alibi for his movements on the night of the attack, said he was satisfied he had tried to set the car alight.
Justice Hart sentenced him to life imprisonment.
Earlier, Duffy left the dock a free man after being cleared -- even though the judge said DNA evidence found on the tip of a glove linked him to the getaway car.