February 10, 2012

Massereene murders: soldiers' killers still at large

The Real IRA left behind a long trail of clues when they killed soldiers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey, but most of the murder gang are still at large.

The soldiers were shot dead outside Massereene Barracks in Antrim in March 2009.

Detectives believe six people were involved on the night of the shootings, and up to 10 were part of the overall murder plot.

However, only one man is behind bars - Brain Shivers, 46 from Magherafelt.

Although he was on the police radar before the killings, he was not regarded as a 'big fish' in dissident republican waters.

So why have the rest of the gang not been caught?

The police have had a large amount of evidence on which to work - especially within the getaway car that the gang tried but failed to destroy.

At the time of the killings back in March 2009, a senior officer described the vehicle as a "forensic goldmine".

In the paramilitary underworld, failing to burn a getaway car is seen as a schoolboy error.

The police also recovered a short audio recording of the killers talking immediately after the shootings.

In a bizarre sequence of events, it seems one of the gang tried to ring an accomplice but ended up ringing himself.

The phone went into voicemail mode and the conversation inside the car was subsequently recorded. If the car had been successfully destroyed, the phone would not have been discovered.

Instead, the phone - and all of the DNA evidence in the car - gave the detectives something significant to work on in the early stages of the investigation. They also had CCTV footage from the murder scene outside Massarene barracks.

It showed the shootings taking place. However, the images were grainy and although it was possible to see the shape of the gunmen, it was impossible to positively identify them.

Nonetheless, the police had a head-start in the investigation. They will be disappointed not to have made more progress since then.

Flowers at scene The murders caused widespread revulsion across Northern Ireland

They have conducted 33 searches, made 14 arrests and taken 1,858 witness statements, but only one person has been convicted.

Colin Duffy, 44, from Lurgan, was accused of the murders but was acquitted last month.

The release of the audio of the gang in the car is a last-ditch attempt to gain more information from the public.

Statements from the mothers of the two young soldiers have also been released. They talk about their deep sense of loss and devastation.

The senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway, said: "Anyone who listens to what the boys' mothers have said, and who knows anything about the murders - or can identify the voices on the phone recording - should do the right thing and talk to the police."

As for Brian Shivers, he is now facing the prospect of dying behind bars.

He has been given a minimum 25-year murder sentence, but doctors say he is unlikely to live past 2017, due to a chronic case of cystic fibrosis.

The unemployed father of one from County Londonderry was diagnosed with the condition four months before the Massareene killings.

He will be treated by specially-trained medical staff in prison but may have to go to outside hospitals when his condition deteriorates.

Prisoners with terminal conditions can apply for compassionate release in the latter stages of their illness, in order to die at home rather than in custody.

No comments:

Post a Comment