Northern Ireland

Shivers not guilty of Massereene soldiers murders

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Media captionBrian Shivers was cleared in a retrial of all charges relating to the murders of two soldiers in 2009

A man originally convicted of the Real IRA murders of two soldiers in 2009 has been found not guilty in a retrial.

Brian Shivers, 47, had been jailed for killing sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, of Birmingham, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, of London, at Massereene barracks, Antrim.

Mr Shivers was also cleared of several other charges including six counts of attempted murder.

He had been convicted of the offences in January 2012 but was retried following a successful appeal.

The soldiers were shot hours before they were due to fly to Afghanistan.

They served with the 38 Engineer Regiment.

They had ordered pizza and left the base to collect it at about 21:20 GMT on 7 March 2009, when they were attacked by two gunmen.

Four other people were seriously injured in the shooting.

In Belfast Crown Court on Friday, the judge, Mr Justice Deeny, described the killings as "ferocious and ruthless".

He said the prosecution case against Mr Shivers was based on circumstantial evidence.

Image caption Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey were shot dead in March 2009

The judge said he could not be sure that DNA found on matches and a phone was not an innocent transfer by Mr Shivers.

"It could have been a quite innocent touching," he said.

"And of course the transfer may have been secondary and not direct; shaking hands with someone who then handled the phone.

"In the same regard, the DNA on the matches does indicate contact with the box of matches used by the person who did set fire to the vehicle on 7 March. But that contact with that object might have been an entirely innocent one."

He also put weight on the evidence given by Lisa Leacock, Mr Shivers' fiancee.

The judge referred to Mr Shivers' significant medical disability and his previous good character. He said these factors suggested he would be an unlikely associate for "this determined gang" to rely on.

Mr Justice Deeny asked himself whether the prosecution had eliminated other possibilities than the guilt of the accused as they were obliged to do and whether he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of Mr Shivers' guilt.

He concluded that the answer to both questions was "clearly no" and found him not guilty.

Sappers Quinsey and Azimkar were the first soldiers to be murdered in Northern Ireland since Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was killed by an IRA sniper in 1997.

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