Real IRA murders: Brian Shivers has Massereene convictions quashed

Brian Shivers was convicted of killing Sappers Azimkar and Quinsey Brian Shivers was convicted of killing Sappers Azimkar and Quinsey

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A man jailed for murdering two soldiers at Massereene Army base in Antrim has had his convictions quashed.

Brian Shivers, 47, from Magherafelt, challenged his convictions for the murders of Sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, from London, in March 2009.

The victims were shot by the Real IRA as they collected pizza.

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal ruled the verdict was unsafe.

The court said that no finding was made about when Shivers allegedly became aware of the murder plot.

Shivers' appeal against additional convictions on six counts of attempted murder and one of possession of firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life, was also allowed by the Court of Appeal.

Shivers will now remain in custody until the Public Prosecution Service decides whether to seek a retrial.

The mother of Sapper Azimkar has said she feels "let down" by the justice system.

Last February, Shivers was ordered to serve a minimum 25 years in prison for his part in the killings.

His co-accused, Colin Duffy, a 45-year-old republican from Lurgan, County Armagh, was acquitted of all charges, including the two murders.

Shivers, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, was originally found guilty as a secondary party who aided and abetted by setting fire to the getaway car.

DNA analysis had established a link to matches found in the partially burnt-out Vauxhall Cavalier used by the gunmen.

But Shivers' lawyers argued that it was legally impossible for him to be convicted of murder because there was no actus reus, or criminal act, prior to the murder.

Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey were murdered in March 2009

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said the trial judge had not dealt with the concept of a joint enterprise.

"The issue for the court was whether it should be inferred that there was a common enterprise to which the appellant agreed prior to the attack to carry out a shooting attack with intent to kill," Sir Declan pointed out.

"The learned trial judge made no finding on this issue."

Sir Declan, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Girvan, held that the test applied by the trial judge required no knowledge of the attack until a rendezvous with the gunmen.

On that basis, he stated: "We do not accept that a person who provides assistance after a murder with full knowledge of what has happened thereby becomes guilty of murder.

"There is no authority to support such a proposition. The learned trial judge made no findings as to when the appellant had the relevant knowledge."

He added: "We conclude, therefore, that the appeal must be allowed."

Counsel for the Public Prosecution Service is expected to confirm on Wednesday whether it is seeking fresh criminal proceedings.

Shivers, who maintained his innocence, appeared by prison video link to hear the outcome of his appeal.

His lawyer, Niall Murphy, said he was relieved by the verdict but expressed concerns about his health.

Mr Murphy said: "This is an example of the justice system working, however, we are gravely concerned at our client's ongoing acute medical condition.

"He has been admitted to hospital for 56 days across three separate admissions since the hearing of his appeal in May and he is routinely refused access to his medication.

"Mr Shivers has been through a terrible ordeal."

He added: "Mr Shivers looks forward to the end of this ordeal and hopes that this judgement is the first step towards that."

An Army spokesman said: "Our thoughts remain with the families of Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey at this extremely difficult time."

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