A man has been acquitted of murdering two British soldiers in Northern Ireland.
Brian Shivers (47) of Co Derry, had denied all involvement in the gun attack outside the Massereene Army barracks in Antrim in which sappers Mark Quinsey (23) and Patrick Azimkar (21) died.
Two other soldiers and two pizza delivery men were seriously injured in the shooting in March 2009. Judge Mr Justice Donnell Deeny delivered his reserved judgment after the non-jury retrial at Belfast Crown Court.
Quinsey, from Birmingham, and Azimkar, from London, were shot by two masked gunmen as they collected pizzas outside the gates of the barracks on March 7th, 2009.
The soldiers, from 38 Engineer Regiment, were just hours away from deploying to Afghanistan and were already dressed in their desert fatigues.
The prosecution case against the defendant was based on DNA evidence found on matchsticks and a mobile phone in and around the abandoned, partially burned-out getaway vehicle used in the attack. But the defence insisted that the genetic traces did not prove he was involved on the night of the shootings.
Shivers was acquitted of two counts of murder, six counts of attempted murder, one of posession of firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life and one of assisting offenders. Last year, Shivers was convicted of the murders of the two soldiers and ordered to serve at least 25 years, but that judgment was quashed earlier this year by Northern Ireland’s Court of Appeal.
He was then ordered to face a retrial. High-profile republican Colin Duffy, from Lurgan, Co Armagh, was a co-accused at the original trial at Antrim Crown Court. He was acquitted of all charges.
Mr Shivers, dressed in a blue jacket and cream trousers, showed no emotion when Mr Justice Deeny said he was free to go. The judge said that when he considered if the prosecution had proved the defendant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt the answer was “clearly no”.
He said the Crown contention that Mr Shivers had played a key role in helping the gunmen get away and burn the attack vehicle was not convincing. The judge asked why hardened terrorists would choose Mr Shivers, who suffers from cystic fibrosis and was engaged to a Protestant woman, as an associate. “He was an unlikely associate for this hardened gang to rely on,” he said.