Mother of soldier killed in Northern Ireland says court decision to overturn verdict is scandalous
Geraldine Azimkar spoke out against the ruling by the Court of Appeal in Belfast
Charlotte Philby is a writer at The Independent with a weekly column on motherhood in The Independent Magazine. She was shortlisted for the 2013 Cudlipp award for excellence in popular journalism for her undercover investigative work, and writes for various cultural magazines.
Tuesday 15 January 2013
The mother of a British soldier shot dead in Northern Ireland has described the decision to quash the conviction of the only person jailed for her son’s murder as “scandalous”.
Geraldine Azimkar, whose Sapper son Patrick, 21, was killed along with comrade Mark Quinsey, 23, outside the Massareene Amy Barracks in Antrim, spoke out against the ruling by the Court of Appeal in Belfast, which concluded verdicts in the original non-jury trial were unsafe.
Mrs Azimkar said she and Patrick’s father, Mehmet Azimkar, had lost all faith in the criminal justice system after the 25-year sentence handed to Brian Shivers, the only man convicted of their son’s murder, was overturned.
Speaking from the family home in London, Mrs Azimkar said: “It seems scandalous that this terrible murder happened and the attempted murders happened and it looks like no one is going to be held to account for it. We feel very let down by the criminal justice system. It does not seem to work for the victims of crime. The whole thing is awful from start to finish.”
Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey were off duty when they were gunned down while collecting a pizza delivery at the gates to their barracks in 2009. The attack by men shooting automatic rifles from a nearby car also injured two pizza delivery drivers and two more soldiers. The shooting was claimed by the Real IRA. The men were the first British military fatalities in Northern Ireland since February 1997.
In the original trial last January, the presiding judge Mr Justice Anthony Hart, who has since retired, found that Shivers set fire to the getaway car used in the attack. He was satisfied that DNA on burnt matches found at the scene belonged to the defendant.
But today the Court of Appeal ruled this act alone was not sufficient to prove Shivers was a secondary party in the murders, for which he had been sentenced to 25 years.
The summary of judgement stated: “The Chief Justice (Sir Declan Morgan) said the court did not accept that a person who provides assistance after a murder with full knowledge of what has happened becomes guilty of murder and that there was no authority to support such a proposition.”
Shivers’ lawyers argued that while the prosecution had presented the case against him as murder as part of a joint enterprise, the judge had convicted him of murder as a secondary party. Under the second definition, the defence argued, setting fire to the car after the event was not enough in itself to find him guilty.
In an emotional statement, Mrs Azimkar made it clear she did not blame the police or Public Prosecution Service. “It is the failure of the criminal justice system, which is very highly loaded in favour of the defendant and therefore against the interests of victims and their loved ones,” she said.
Shivers will remain in custody until the Public Prosecution Service decides whether to seek a retrial.
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