WHEN asked by a reporter outside Antrim Crown Court on Friday if he was nervous, murder accused Brian Shivers replied: “No, not at all. I’m innocent.”
By PATRICIA DEVLIN
But less than four hours later the 46 year-old Magherafelt man, described as an “unlikely terrorist” by his defence team, was convicted of two of the most brutal murders carried out by dissident republicans in recent years.
British soldiers Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham and Patrick Azimkar, 21 from London, were shot dead as they collected a pizza outside Masserene army barracks in March, 2009. Both men were due to fly out to Afghanistan just a few hours later.
Shivers’ co-accused, Colin Duffy, 44, from Lurgan was earlier acquitted of murdering the two soldiers.
Finding the Magherafelt man guilty of six counts of attempted murder and one of two firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life, Judge Anthony Hart said that while he could not connect Duffy to being in the car after the murders took place, he could “beyond reasonable doubt” do so with Shivers.
In his judgement the Judge drew attention to the 46 year-old’s role in attempting to dispose of the getaway car used in the murders.
He said there could be no doubt that the person who set fire to the Cavalier played an essential part in the murderous attack because by setting fire to the car they were trying to destroy it, and so destroy any evidence that might lead to the arrest of those involved.
He said that he was satisfied that Shivers’ DNA was found on the two matches found on the back seat of the Cavalier, and that those matches were used to set fire to the car before all those present left the scene.
He also said that Shivers had lied about his whereabouts and actions on the night of the murders.
Judge Hart concluded: “I am satisfied that the prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt that Shivers set fire to the Cavalier at Ranaghan Road and I therefore find him guilty on each count on the indictment.”
Before a silent courtroom, Shivers rose to his feet in the dock as the judge passed sentence.
“There is only one penalty that I can impose upon you,” he said. “And that is one of life imprisonment, which I now do. I now sentence you to life imprisonment.”
Mr Justice Hart had already told the court, in relation to Duffy, that he was satisfied that his DNA had been found on a seat belt buckle of the car and on a latex glove tip found inside - but he ruled that the prosecution had failed to link the 44-year-old 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 seat belt buckle, meant that he was preparing the car in some way for this murderous attack,” Mr Justice Hart said.
“And I therefore find him not guilty.”
The families of the victims broke down in tears, with some walking out as the Lurgan man left the dock and followed his supporters - whose removal from the courtroom was ordered by the judge.
It’s the third time Duffy has been cleared of murder, after his conviction over the IRA killing of a former soldier nearly 20 years ago was later quashed and the case against him over the 1997 murders of two police officers collapsed.
Mr Justice Hart has been presiding over the non-jury trial since it began in November last year and made his ruling on Friday morning, after four weeks of deliberations.
Duffy and Shivers both denied all the charges against them throughout their trial.
The gun attack, which came just two days after then PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde confirmed the threat from dissident republicans in Northern Ireland was at critical level, was later claimed by the Real IRA.