Northern Ireland

Patrick Azimkar's parents say part of him lives on with them

Patrick Azimkar
Image caption The 21-year-old told his parents that if anything happened to him they had to get on with their lives

For Geraldine Ferguson and her husband Mehmet Azimkar, 7 March 2009 was the worst moment of the their lives.

It was the day their son Patrick was shot dead as he collected a pizza outside Massereene Army Barracks.

His colleague and friend, Mark Quinsey, was also killed.

They had been due to depart for a tour of Afghanistan, with their regiment the Royal Engineers, within hours of taking delivery of their takeaway.

Patrick's mother remembers receiving a phone call.

"They just kept saying he had died of gun-shot wounds and then they said it's not Afghanistan, it's Northern Ireland. It was the most surreal, terrible moment of our lives," she said.

"Shock, for me that shock lasted well over a year, that profound state of shock, that's what it was."

The family had not feared for their son during his deployment in Northern Ireland.

"We did think he would be safe and obviously we were really worried about him going to Afghanistan but you just have to accept that, that's part of being in the Army," she said.

Happy

"We were worried about it but we'd never worried about him being in Northern Ireland."

Patrick's father Mehmet said his son had enjoyed his time there.

"Each time he was coming home he would say how he was enjoying Northern Ireland," he said.

"The people were very friendly. He loved it over there and he even said after the Army he wouldn't mind settling there.

"I mean, we knew about the past but it had been quiet for a long time."

Geraldine remembers her son coming into the family kitchen while on a trip home before his deployment to Afghanistan.

"Patrick just walked in, he went over to the fridge and without looking at us, with his head behind the fridge, he said to us, 'you know if I don't come back from Afghanistan, I don't want you lot all moping around and being soppy, you've got to get on with your lives'," she said.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionGeraldine Ferguson, the Mother of Patrick Azimkar: "This was a terrible crime"

"We said 'oh Patrick, don't be silly, everything's going to be fine'. We did believe he would be fine."

Struggle

Her son's words have provided them and their son, James, with comfort.

"Mehmet will often say in the last year or two when it's been so difficult sometimes to get through the day, he'll say, 'remember what Patrick said, we've got to get on with our lives' and we do actually, we have and we do, but it isn't easy," she said.

She described the actions of the gunmen as "an act of distilled evil".

"It was a kind of horrible, sharp, quick bombardment of evil and terror and then of course terrible loss from that," she said.

"Patrick and Mark and lots of other young men were very badly hurt.

"But extraordinarily from there, there then came our way at least, this enormous very wide, long deep fast-flowing river, what perhaps could only be described as love really, of tremendous support and care, of love really and it carried us very well and it helped us to get through."

The family received support from family, friends, colleagues, the Army, the PSNI and hundreds and hundreds of strangers who wrote to express their sympathy and outrage at the murders.

Patrick's mother said she still feels anger to some degree towards the man who murdered her son.

Comfort

"It's just impossible to understand why anybody would do that, particularly as there was a peace agreement, and it seems to be working for virtually everybody else, so it's just impossible to comprehend."

The family have been comforted by the kindness shown to them by the Northern Ireland public.

Image caption Mehmet and Geraldine said part of them died with their son, but part of Patrick lives with them

"You can see how good people are, how sorry people are, you can genuinely see how people and the way they look at us and treat us, every single one of them, still after three years, there is nothing that they can't do to make us feel at ease," said Mehmet.

"They have been absolutely brilliant."

One of the most difficult hurdles for the family since Patrick's death has been sitting through the trial of the man found guilty of their son's murder.

"It was very difficult, because suddenly you start living everything all over again," said Mr Azimkar.

"Then of course you see some of the video evidence, although you can't see any faces, you can see actions, it was all there. How it happened, what happened.

"They're all my son's friends, sitting giving evidence, still disturbed because they all were very close friends and I mean close, I never seen a closeness like that in all my life.

"How did an innocent boy just minding his own business, just popping out to get a pizza, get blown away with a bloody bullet. It was very distressing."

Geraldine said it had been a gruelling few days in court.

"We wanted to be there and we were glad we were," she said.

"We were supported by our PSNI officers who looked after us but nobody can take away the actual reality of what you have to sit through, but you somehow feel you need to."

Brian Shivers was convicted of the murders of Patrick Azimkar and his fellow soldier, Mark Quinsey at Antrim Crown Court on Friday.

His co-accused Colin Duffy was acquitted of all charges.

More on this story