Belfast Telegraph

Memorial unveiled to murdered pair

The families of two murdered British soldiers have paid an emotional visit to the town where they died to unveil a memorial honouring their loved ones.

Relatives of sappers Patrick Azimkar, 21, and Mark Quinsey, 23, thanked the people of Antrim for remembering the Royal Engineers in such a "wonderful and extraordinary" way as they attended a dedication ceremony held on the third anniversary of their deaths at the hands of dissident republican terrorists.

The young soldiers from 38 Engineer Regiment were gunned down in March 2009 by a Real IRA gang outside Antrim's Massereene Army barracks as they collected a pizza delivery hours before they were due to deploy to Afghanistan. Only one man has been convicted of the murders and after the memorial event family members expressed doubts whether they would ever get full justice.

Sapper Quinsey's mother Pamela Brankin and sister Jaime joined Sapper Azimkar's parents Mehmet Azimkar and Geraldine Ferguson and his brother James as the engraved black stone bearing the soldiers' names was uncovered beside the town's cenotaph during a solemn ceremony.

Around 500 people braved snow and sleet to attend the dedication and an earlier inter-denominational church service.

Sapper Azimkar's mother said the knowledge local people still cared about her son was a great source of comfort.

"It's a very difficult day because it's the third anniversary but coming here today, seeing this incredible commemoration, is extraordinary really, it's beyond belief," she said afterwards. "This is definitely of great comfort because even after we are gone, all of us are gone, their memories will live on and of course that is very special."

Jaime Quinsey thanked all those who had come to pay tribute to her brother.

"Each year has been very difficult but this year coming here, seeing how much all these people care - coming out in this weather - it's just made this day so much easier and the following years," she said. "It makes me so proud of my brother and Patrick for what they did, being in the Army. It's wonderful to see how much Ireland cares."

An inscription carved on the memorial on behalf of both families read: "Our greatest hope is a commitment to unity and peace in defiance of the prejudice of a few."

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