Republican cleared of murders says DNA was planted in car

Colin Duffy denies any involvement in shooting of two soldiers

The prominent Northern Ireland republican dissident Colin Duffy yesterday defiantly claimed that DNA linking him to a getaway car used in the murder of two soldiers had been planted there.

Mr Duffy, 44, walked free on Friday after a judge found him not guilty of killing soldiers Mark Quinsey, 23, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, who were gunned down outside an Army base in March 2009. Another republican, Brian Shivers, 46, was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mr Duffy declared yesterday: "I am firmly of the view that my DNA arose there because it was planted. I was never in that car.

"I state quite categorically that I had no involvement in what happened – no involvement whatsoever – and that has been vindicated in court because there was no credible evidence to suggest otherwise."

Describing the charges against him as spurious, he refused to condemn dissident republicans. He said that if being a dissident meant opposing Sinn Fein's peace strategy then he was happy to classify himself as that.

Although DNA evidence was presented against both men, the judge ruled that while there was "strong suspicion" that Mr Duffy knew of the attack, the evidence was not strong enough to convict him.

The acquittal of Mr Duffy generated much shock and indignation in Northern Ireland. The trial was the third time in 20 years that he has been accused of murder, but none of the charges has stuck. In total, he has been accused of the killings of five members of the security forces – two soldiers, one former soldier and two police officers.

Police have described Mr Duffy as provocative and confrontational, adding: "It is difficult to monitor and restrain an individual so determined, belligerent and violent."

There were sombre reactions from the families of the two soldiers who were killed. Sapper Quinsey's sister Jaime said: "After nearly three years of heartache we have come a little bit closer to justice. One person has been convicted and another acquitted. It brings great comfort to know that this case is not closed."

Sapper Azimkar's mother, Geraldine, added: "Losing Patrick has devastated our family and has for ever cast a dark shadow over our lives."

Chief Superintendent Peter Farrar welcomed the conviction of Shivers, adding: "Police are determined to use every legitimate avenue to pursue terrorist criminals. This investigation is not over."

During the trial Mr Justice Hart was told Shivers suffered from cystic fibrosis and had been given five or six years to live. Shivers testified that although he had attended some republican meetings he supported the peace process.

Meanwhile, it has been suggested that two bombing attacks carried out by dissident republicans in Londonderry on Thursday night were timed to mark the ending of the trial. In the aftermath of the explosions, political and civic leaders in the city have issued a communal statement condemning them and telling dissidents: "We have yet to hear any attempt at a sensible political argument in favour of your destructive actions."

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