Judge rules there is enough DNA evidence to link Shivers to the soldiers' deaths, but veteran republican Colin Duffy is cleared
A man has been convicted of the murder of two soldiers during a Real IRA gun attack on Massereene army base in Northern Ireland three years ago, but his co-defendant was found not guilty.
Brian Shivers, 46, was declared guilty of the double killing of sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey in March 2009 that marked the start of a renewed Real IRA terror campaign in Northern Ireland.
The judge said there was sufficient DNA evidence to link Shivers to the murders. He said Shivers's DNA was found on two matches in the back of a burnt-out getaway car and that there was an "extremely strong inference" that the defendant was connected to the vehicle.
But a veteran Irish republican, Colin Duffy, is to walk free from Antrim crown court after charges against him over the murder of the two soldiers were dismissed.
Duffy, 44, was due to be freed from court after the judge found there was insufficient evidence to convict him of the murders.
Duffy has always denied involvement in the fatal shooting outside the army barracks in Antrim town. His supporters denounced the case as a "show trial" designed to take Duffy off the streets.
Much of the crown's evidence relied on DNA matching profiles.
The prosecution said Duffy's DNA matched that found on the tip of a latex glove discovered inside the burnt-out Vauxhall used by the killers to flee the murder scene. A forensic scientist told the court the chances of Duffy's DNA not being matched to that on the glove were fewer than one in 1bn.
But the judge ruled there was not enough evidence to link Duffy to the sappers' deaths. The defence had argued that the DNA evidence may have been contaminated.
Azimkar, 21, from north London, and 23-year-old Birmingham-born Quinsey died in the volley of shots directed at them, other soldiers and two pizza delivery men outside the base.
The victims, who had been due to depart for service in Afghanistan hours after the attack, were wearing desert fatigue uniforms when they were caught in the ambush.
During the trial, distressing CCTV images of the soldiers' final moments were played to the court. It was held in a Diplock court with a judge but no jury ? a measure designed to prevent intimidation of jurors.
The trial witnessed the ruthless way in which two Real IRA hitmen dispatched their victims. The scenes were so graphic that some members of the soldiers' families left the court. Azimkar and Quinsey were hit with nearly 60 bullets.
The evidence also revealed a mobile phone call that appeared to show one of the two killers boasting about what they had done at the army base. In a taped message, the court heard a male voice say: "There were a few dead all right."
Judge Mr Justice Anthony Hart told Antrim crown court that he was satisfied that Duffy's DNA was found on a seatbelt buckle of the car believed to have been used by the gunmen and on a latex glove tip, but that the prosecution had failed to link the defendant to the murder plot.
"I consider that there is insufficient evidence to satisfy me beyond reasonable doubt that, whatever Duffy may have done when he wore the latex glove or touched the seatbelt buckle, meant that he was preparing the car in some way for this murderous attack. And I therefore find him not guilty," the judge said.
Duffy is due to be released from custody. He has been on remand in Maghaberry prison where he has been on a no-wash dirty protest against his continued incarceration.
Duffy has long claimed he has been the victim of persecution at the hands of the security forces.
In 1996, the court of appeal quashed his conviction and life sentence for shooting dead a former UDR soldier, John Lyness, three years earlier.
A year later, charges against him of murdering two police officers, David Johnston and John Graham, were dropped after the director of public prosecutions said the evidence was insufficient to afford the prospect of a conviction. They were shot dead in the centre of Lurgan a few days before the IRA declared a second ceasefire in 1997.