Real IRA killers made sure troops were dead, court told

 

A prominent Irish republican went on trial yesterday charged with the murders of the last two soldiers to die violently in Northern Ireland.

Colin Duffy appeared in court wearing a bulky overcoat and a bushy beard, grown during more than two years in custody awaiting trial.

The soldiers, Sappers Patrick Azimkar, 21, from north London, and Mark Quinsey, 23, of Birmingham, were unarmed when they were gunned down in March 2009 while collecting pizzas at the gates of Massereene barracks in Antrim.

Duffy, 43, of Lurgan, Co Armagh, and Brian Shivers, 46, of Magherafelt, Co Londonderry, deny murder and attempted murder. Duffy, a veteran republican, smiled and nodded to his relatives and supporters in the public gallery. Some members of the victims' families left the court as the hearing was played CCTV footage of the attack, which was claimed by the prosecuting counsel, Terence Mooney, QC, as "a highly organised and ruthless attack" by the Real IRA.

The images showed the soldiers in desert uniforms leaving the barracks to pick up a pizza delivery and then being approached by two armed men dressed in black, who opened fire. Wearing balaclavas, the gunmen then walked around two pizza delivery vehicles, apparently looking for soldiers lying on the ground to shoot them again.

The sappers were killed on the night before they were due to fly out for an Afghan tour of duty, the court heard. The pizza delivery men were also badly wounded but survived.

Mr Mooney said 65 shots were fired, some at the wounded sappers on the ground. They died from multiple bullet and shrapnel wounds to the head, trunk and limbs.

Mr Mooney said the judge, who is sitting without a jury, would hear evidence that DNA matching that of Duffy was recovered from the tip of a latex glove left in a getaway car. An attempt to set fire to the vehicle failed, he said, allowing valuable evidence to be gathered from it. He said there would be evidence that samples of soil from the car matched material found on a boot belonging to Duffy.

The trial, expected to last five weeks, continues at Antrim Crown Court.