Massereene sapper's mother pays tribute as bikers ride out in memory of murdered soldiers
The spot where their soldier son was shot five years ago is no longer a dark and cold place, Patrick Azimkar's mother has said.
Sapper Azimkar (21) was gunned down by dissident republicans alongside his colleague Mark Quinsey (24) on March 7, 2009 as they collected pizzas outside the gates of Massereene Army Barracks just hours before being posted to Afghanistan.
Yesterday bikers – including many from the Royal British Legion – turned out in the rain to the car park beside where the barracks used to be to mark the fifth anniversary in the fifth annual Massereene Ride Out hosted by the Northern Ireland Bikers Club.
The PUP's Ken Wilkinson said there were around 300 in total, although many stayed in cars due to the rain.
A short prayer service was held and wreaths laid at the gates of the former barracks, now owned by Randox Health.
Mr Wilkinson read out part of an email from Geraldine Ferguson, the mother of Sapper Azimkar, thanking those who had turned out to remember their son.
She wrote that the family are "astonished" that locals gather to remember her son and said it warms the cold scene of the murder for her.
"I have always imagined it, especially with the barracks closed, to be a cold, empty and barren place," she said in the message seen by the Belfast Telegraph.
"To hear that it's not like that at all, that on the contrary many people visit the spot where they fell on that day, think fondly of the boys, remember their lives, some perhaps say a prayer, but all stand in the spirit of peace, is absolutely astonishing to us.
"It is also a great tribute to the people of Antrim town in particular and Northern Ireland in general that people take time and trouble to do this."