Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Massereene Barracks victim's mum says 'I'm not after revenge, I just feel sorry my child's murderers are so totally consumed with hatred'

By Rebecca Black

Published 27/02/2016

Geraldine Ferguson, mother of Patrick Azimkar at Belfast City Airport yesterday
Geraldine Ferguson, mother of Patrick Azimkar at Belfast City Airport yesterday
Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey
Mrs Ferguson on the day her late son’s comrades returned to Northern Ireland after a tour of Afghanistan
Forensic teams the day after the murder
The victims’ coffins leave Massereene

The mother of a young soldier murdered by dissident republicans has told how she believes no one will face justice for the crime.

Geraldine Ferguson, whose son Sapper Patrick Azimkar (21) was killed outside Massereene Barracks on March 7, 2009, along with his colleague Sapper Mark Quinsey, is making an emotional return to Northern Ireland this weekend - just days before the seventh anniversary of the killing.

She praised the work of the PSNI but said that she felt the justice system in Northern Ireland made it too difficult to get a conviction.

"It seems to be extremely difficult to get a conviction in these type of cases for all sorts of reasons," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It would be great if they could, but we have had to come to terms with the fact that it may not happen. We have come to terms with that.

"If they couldn't get a conviction with the evidence they had, I don't think they ever will."

Mrs Ferguson will today attend a major conference organised by South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) at the Lough Erne Resort, where the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton will give an address.

She travelled from her home in London for the event along with Lynda Van Cuylenburg, whose father was murdered in Bloody Friday, Mina Jadeja, a survivor of the Harrods bomb, and Aileen Quinton, whose mother Alberta was murdered in the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bombing.

Tomorrow, Mrs Ferguson will return to the Antrim site where her son was killed to lay a wreath.

Three people were originally arrested over the murders of Patrick and his colleague Sapper Quinsey (23).

Lurgan republican Colin Duffy was acquitted of involvement in 2012.

Brian Shivers was the only one to be convicted, however that was overturned on appeal in January 2013. A subsequent retrial found him not guilty.

The PSNI case is still open and Mrs Ferguson has been kept informed of developments.

"The PSNI have been fantastic, and we believe they carried out a good investigation," she said.

"But the system in Northern Ireland, it is hard to understand. We were surprised to see how the criminal justice system operated there, particularly in terms of the right to silence.

"For a suspect in your child's murder not even to be asked to account for their movements on that particular day... that's quite a hard thing to swallow."

Mrs Ferguson said she felt a sort of sadness when one of the men questioned over her son's murder died last year. Declan McGlinchey passed away last November at his Bellaghy home after suffering chest pains.

"That churned me up again," she said. "It was a complex feeling, but mostly a sort of sadness at the waste of all these lives.

"Ultimately, it is the same for all of us - we will all face judgement eventually. They have to live with it.

"We do not feel like we want vengeance, we feel a terrible sadness of all these wasted lives, people whose lives are wracked with hatred of their fellow man.

"Pat was just an ordinary young man like they were. They seem to think soldiers are political targets, but they are just ordinary young men from across England, trying to make their way in life.

"Patrick joined for a carpentry apprenticeship. He loved working with wood, like his father. He had looked around for apprenticeships, but they are very hard to get, then someone told him the Army did good apprenticeships and he looked into it and joined."

Mrs Ferguson will today meet scores of other victims who have experienced similar loss. She said she and Mark Quinsey's mother, Pamela Brankin, supported each other until she died in 2013. Mrs Brankin's daughter Jaime said at that time her mother died of a broken heart.

"Speaking to other victims is something I have never been able to do before," Mrs Ferguson said. "Obviously, I had that with Mark's mum, but sadly it was all too much for her.

"Other than that, I have never met anyone who is in a similar situation to ourselves. I think it will be very good to have that opportunity to meet and talk to people who have been through what we have been through." Although visiting Northern Ireland is painful for Mrs Ferguson and her husband Mehmet Azimkar, she said part of them will always be in the province.

"It isn't easy, but it is somewhere that we feel bound to because of what happened to Patrick," she added.

"It is difficult but it is also where Pat died and fell so part of us will always be there.

"We have made some firm friends in Northern Ireland. We have met so many people who have been so extraordinarily warm. They may not have been through exactly what we have been through, but they know it because they have lived it.

"There is an understanding in the people of Northern Ireland that is different to England, where there isn't that same recognition and understanding."

Mrs Ferguson's father is from Northern Ireland and her mother's family are from counties Kerry and Cork, where she spent many summers as a young girl.

Kenny Donaldson, organiser of SEFF's European Innocent Victims Seminar, said a Spanish MEP, church leaders and a senior Garda Superintendent will be among those attending the conference today.

"The purpose of the conference is to examine the justice, truth and accountability mechanisms in place within the UK and the Republic and also Spain," Mr Donaldson said.

"(We will be) examining what needs to be done to deliver for a constituency of victims who have not been the focus of Government's attentions for 20 years.

"The seminar will also examine the need for tailored support services for individual victims and survivors of terrorism, irrespective of their particular address or postcode. And we will be examining the trauma legacy arising from the years of terror."

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