Brian Shivers sentenced to 25 years' jail for soldiers' murders

image captionBrian Shivers was convicted of killing Sappers Azimkar and Quinsey

A terminally ill man convicted of murdering two soldiers at Massereene Barracks, Antrim, has been told he must serve a minimum of 25 years in jail.

Brian Shivers, 46, from Magherafelt was convicted last month of the murders of Mark Quinsey, 23, and Patrick Azimkar, 21.

They were shot dead by the Real IRA as they collected pizza in March 2009.

The court heard that Shivers has cystic fibrosis and doctors believe he has only a few years to live.

At Belfast Crown Court on Friday, Mr Justice Anthony Hart told him he would have to spend at least 25 years in prison before he could be considered for release.

Sapper Quinsey, from Birmingham, and Sapper Azimkar, from London, both serving with 38 Engineer Regiment, were about to leave for a tour of Afghanistan in March 2009 when they were murdered by republican dissidents opposed to the Good Friday peace deal.

The soldiers' mothers were not in court on Friday, but the judge referred to statements in which they said their lives had been devastated by their loss.

Mark Quinsey's mother, Pamela, said: "A mother thinks she will hold her child's hand for the rest of her life. Now my hand is empty and lost. I get no rest from the hurt and torment it has caused us all.

"I tried my best to talk Mark out of going into the Army but he loved the Army. I was very proud of him. He was very popular and well loved by everyone. What a waste of a young man's life."

Patrick Azimkar's mother, Geraldine, said: "We have all changed, all aged, our hearts and souls are no longer light but weighed down with sorrow and loss.

"We feel sort of empty inside and until recently felt life to be empty outside too. Everything seemed pointless and trivial, the colour of our lives faded. I believe Patrick is alive and flourishing with God and I believe we will see him again."

'Heinous crimes'

Sentencing Shivers, Judge Hart said: "Whilst he played a lesser role than the gunmen and driver of the attack car, by setting fire to the car he played a prominent and essential role in this carefully planned and ruthlessly executed crime.

"Those who carry out such heinous crimes would not be able to do so without the assistance of others who play a vital part in helping the main participants to escape afterwards, and conceal or destroy evidence."

Addressing Shivers' illness, the judge said: "The appropriate approach for the court to take is to proceed on the basis that such matters are irrelevant to sentencing, provided that the court is satisfied that there are available appropriate facilities within the prison to allow for such conditions to be properly dealt with.

"Should it be the case that Shivers' condition deteriorates to such an extent that it may no longer be appropriate for him to be kept in prison that is a matter to be decided if and when it arises by the prison authorities in the first place, and ultimately by the minister of justice as the minister responsible for the prison service and the exercise of the Royal Prerogative."

As Shivers turned to leave the court, members in the public gallery raised their thumbs at him.

Shivers' co-accused, Colin Duffy, 44, from Lurgan was earlier acquitted of murdering the two soldiers.

Police have renewed their appeal for information about the murders.

They have issued a recording of a phone call made by the killers shortly after the attack.

The recording was on a mobile phone left in a green Vauxhall Cavalier car which the gang failed to set on fire at Ranaghan Road, about eight miles from Massereene.

Anyone who thinks they recognise any of the voices on the recording is asked to contact police.

To date, police said the investigation had generated:

• 8,910 documents

• 2,724 exhibits

• 4,062 actions

• 1,858 witness statements

• 33 searches

• 14 arrests

• 1 conviction

• 1 related charge (still to go to trial)

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