Lawyer: Murder accused vindicated
A terminally ill man acquitted at retrial of murdering two British soldiers in Northern Ireland has been vindicated following a miscarriage of justice, his lawyer has said.
Brian Shivers, 47, from Co Londonderry, walked out of Belfast Crown Court after being found not guilty of involvement in the dissident republican gang that shot sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, outside the Massereene Army barracks in Antrim.
The acquittal in the non-jury case, coming after guilty verdicts at Mr Shivers' original trial were quashed by the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal, means no-one has yet been successfully prosecuted over the March 2009 attack by the Real IRA.
After the judgment by Mr Justice Donnell Deeny, in which he questioned elements of the forensic evidence presented by the prosecution, Sapper Azimkar's mother Geraldine said she was in a state of shock.
"It's very hard to come to terms with Patrick's loss when not a single person has been held to account," a tearful Mrs Azimkar said. "It is as if his life did not matter."
Sappers Quinsey, from Birmingham, and Azimkar, from London, were shot at close range by two masked gunmen as they collected pizzas outside the gates of the barracks on March 7 2009. The soldiers, from 38 Engineer Regiment, were just hours away from deploying to Afghanistan and were already dressed in their desert fatigues.
Two other soldiers and two pizza delivery men were seriously injured in the shooting.
Last year Mr Shivers, who has cystic fibrosis and is not expected to live much beyond 50, was convicted of the soldiers' murders and a series of other offences linked to the attack and sentenced to 25 years in prison. But the judgment was quashed by three Court of Appeal judges in January and he was ordered to face a retrial.
Delivering his reserved judgment after hearing the new case at Belfast Crown Court, Justice Deeny acquitted Mr Shivers on two counts of murder; six counts of attempted murder; one of possession of firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life; and one of assisting offenders.
Outside court, his solicitor Niall Murphy said: "This is not a moment of celebration. It must be remembered that there are two families still grieving and several people who are still suffering from their injuries. That said, Brian Shivers has suffered the horror of having been wrongfully convicted in what now must be described as a miscarriage of justice."