Northern Ireland

Massereene victim Azimkar's parents say 'lives ruined'

One of two British soldiers murdered by dissident republicans in Antrim last year wanted to build a life in Northern Ireland, his parents have told the BBC.

Patrick Azimkar died along with Mark Quinsey in a gun attack at Massereene Barracks, near Antrim, on 7 March 2009.

Real IRA gunmen opened fire as they and other members of the Royal Engineers collected a pizza delivery hours before they were due to deploy to Afghanistan.

Patrick Azimkar's mother's family originally came from Co Londonderry.

He was posted to Antrim in 2008 and his parents say that he quickly felt at home in Northern Ireland.

Peace

"He loved it," his father Mehmet told the BBC Spotlight programme in the family's first interview.

"He wanted to stay there, even after leaving the army.

"He particularly liked Belfast," his mother Geraldine added.

The Azimkars, from north London, said they had no concerns about the safety of 21-year-old Patrick, given the years that had passed since the Good Friday Agreement.

"The peace agreement was when Patrick was nine," said Geraldine.

"And as far as we were concerned, here anyway in England, peace was holding very well and things were settled and so I didn't have any worries about him going to Northern Ireland at all."

The Azimkars said that they are still coming to terms with the shock of the fact that their son was killed in Northern Ireland.

'Devastation'

"If we'd lost Patrick in Afghanistan, of course it's not worse, we'd still lose him and we'd still have the same devastation," said Geraldine.

"But it's just so difficult to get your head round. And also why and how? What's the point? What was the purpose?"

"I mean what did they gain by destroying our lives and his life and the other boy's life?" asked Mehmet.

"I keep asking the same question to myself. What the hell did they gain? Did they gain anything?"

Spotlight reporter Declan Lawn puts that question to supporters of dissident republican groups during Spotlight on Tuesday night.

The programme also examines whether dissident support is growing in some areas.

Spotlight, Tuesday 19 October, 2235 BST on BBC1

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