Mum's tribute to Massereene murder victim sapper Patrick Azimkar
The mother of a young soldier who was gunned down by dissident republicans will today make an emotional return to the spot where he was murdered.
Geraldine Ferguson, whose son, Sapper Patrick Azimkar (21) was killed outside Massereene Barracks on March 7, 2009, along with his colleague Sapper Mark Quinsey (23), will mark the eighth anniversary of her son's death with a floral tribute.
The anniversary comes days after she spoke of the loss of her son at a seminar in Co Fermanagh, attended by other victims of paramilitary violence.
Today, Mrs Ferguson will make the heartbreaking journey to Antrim, to the spot where Patrick was killed.
"We will lay some flowers and then go to the memorial that Antrim council erected for Patrick and Mark," she said.
"We will try and get through the day, but it is very difficult.
"The main feeling I will have is being absolutely broken-hearted.
"We said goodbye to Patrick a few weeks after his 21st birthday and we never saw him again. We feel very sad and upset and very churned up because it's exactly where he fell and it's a terrible waste of good, young lives. The futility of it, the pointlessness and senselessness of it."
Mrs Ferguson explained that as the years go on, her emotions are not as raw but admits she finds it hard to describe the pain of losing her son.
"The horror and heartache is too deep for words," she said.
"A very common experience when you lose a child is that the days that were once the best days suddenly become the worst days, including birthdays, Christmas, Easter and Mother's Day. They are supposed to be family days but he's not there any more.
"Our loss is most acute on those days. We always put a little candle where Patrick would have sat. It's painful."
Three people were arrested over the murders of Mr Azimkar and his colleague Mr Quinsey, whose grief-stricken mother Pamela Brankin died in 2013 aged 51.
Lurgan republican Colin Duffy was acquitted of involvement in 2012. Brian Shivers was the only person to be convicted, although that was overturned on appeal in January 2013. A subsequent retrial found him not guilty.
Mrs Ferguson added: "Injustice is a very hard burden to bear, it's heavy for us and the many others in Northern Ireland who carry that all our lives.
"Mark's mother wasn't able to carry on living, it was the injustice that killed her (in 2013) and the heartbreak.
"Our family must live for Patrick as he would want us to. If we don't you might say it's another victory for these people."
She said that while the PSNI case is still open, the failure to secure convictions so far has left her family with little hope of getting justice.
"That makes us angry. We have been let down very badly by the judicial system," she said.
Kenny Donaldson, chairman of South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), organised the major seminar entitled Reclaiming the Past, Shaping the Future.
"The seminar explored from an academic, faith, legal and practical basis how the integrity of the past might be reclaimed and the future shaped, meaning that victims and survivors can live once again instead of simply existing," he said.
"Victims and survivors have paid a very heavy price over the years of the terror campaign."