Northern Ireland

Murdered soldier's mother reflects on 'terrible pain' eight years on

floral tributes outside massereene barracks march 2009 Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption A picture of Patrick Azimkar with his girlfriend left among floral tributes after his murder at Massereene Army Barracks

"It's a very destructive kind of suffering, injustice. When you put the two of them together - the pain of losing Patrick and the kind of suffering of injustice as well - it's hard to bear.

"It's genuinely hard to bear."

It is just over eight years to the day since Patrick Azimkar and his colleague and friend Mark Quinsey, two soldiers, were shot dead outside Massereene Army Barracks in Antrim.

The pair were killed by dissident republicans as they waited at the barrack gates to collect a pizza order.

For Geraldine Ferguson, the mother of Patrick, the pain of his loss has intermingled with knowledge that no one has been brought to justice for his murder.

"When you lose a child, it's sort of heartbreaking," she told BBC's The Sunday News.

"Your heart actually feels like it's broken into pieces, it genuinely feels like that and it makes you weep and cry.

"You're suffering terrible pain, but the edges of the pain are soft.

Image copyright Other
Image caption Patrick Azimkar was 21 when he was murdered

"Injustice is a very different sort of pain, injustice is the sort of pain that makes your heart very hard, like a stone. It leads you to feeling very, very angry and bitter."

"The injustice has been a real stumbling block for us," she admitted, five days on from the anniversary of her son's death.

In 2013, the conviction of a man for the murder of both men was overturned. Brian Shivers was found not guilty in a retrial.

No-one else has been charged with the killings.

Mrs Ferguson is no stranger to Northern Ireland's political history - she is the child of a mixed-faith marriage, her father was a Protestant from Northern Ireland while her mother was a Catholic from the Republic of Ireland.

'Suffering'

She said that she believes no one will be convicted for the her son's death and added that Northern Ireland's politicians, criminal justice system and courts had failed victims.

"Politicians need to listen to the suffering of the people. They can't just brush aside issues of truth and justice," she said.

"People have to have parity and fairness and the politicians have to be able to listen and not keep talking, but listen.

"I think unless people can get to tell their story and be taken seriously and hear, then you're left in a state of eternal agitation that you don't quite know what to do with.

"And if you have communities like that, then how can communities move forward?"

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Geraldine Ferguson said her renewed faith had helped her cope with the loss of her son

She added: "I know from personal experience that it's very, very difficult to heal and to come to terms with the loss of your loved one when there's not truth, when it's not spoken about, when you're not heard and particularly when there's no justice."

However, Geraldine said that she takes some comfort in her renewed Catholic faith.

"I was brought up a Catholic, but I lost my faith in my very early teens. I just stopped believing and never really looked back until this happened.

"I suppose in those days I didn't think this (Patrick's death) was survivable.

'Hope and strength'

"I didn't know whether, after losing Patrick, I could live after that but I knew that I needed to live because we have another son and he absolutely needed both of us.

"But in desperation really, because I didn't believe at all, I called on God and he answered.

"It (her faith) helps enormously. It gives me great hope and great strength, and it's a fantastic conciliation and I do believe I'll see Patrick again."

And while Geraldine thinks that her son's killers will never face prisons, she believes their "act of evil" will "exact its own penalty".

"Maybe that's not always visible or obvious, but I do think those people have to live with what they've done even if they're not in prison.

"They still have to look at themselves in the mirror every morning, they still have to wake up in the night sometimes and remember what they've done."

You can listen back to the full interview with Geraldine Ferguson on The Sunday News on BBC iPlayer.

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