Dissident republican terrorists exploited security lapses at an Army base in Northern Ireland to shoot dead two defenceless British soldiers, the trial of a man accused of the murders has heard.
Three separate pieces of DNA evidence link defendant Brian Shivers, 47, to the car used in the attack that killed sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, and seriously injured four others outside Massereene barracks in Antrim four years ago, a prosecution lawyer told Belfast Crown Court.
After grainy CCTV footage of the March 2009 shooting was shown to court, Terence Mooney QC said the likelihood of three genetic matches being found in the abandoned partially burnt-out vehicle - from matchsticks and a mobile phone - being a chance occurrence was “so unlikely that it may be discounted”.
Opening the Crown case, Mr Mooney told judge Mr Justice Donnell Deeny that physically connecting Shivers, from Sperrin Mews, Magherafelt, Co Londonderry, to the attack car was enough to prove he was part of a well-planned plot to kill members of the security forces.
The lawyer insisted knowledge that a potentially-deadly criminal act was to be committed was sufficient to prosecute him for the murders. He argued that the terrorists would not entrust a random, unwitting acquaintance with involvement with or destroying the attack car. The lawyer claimed evidence presented to the trial would demonstrate Shivers’ “willing involvement in the attack”.
Shivers, who denies all charges, also faces six counts of attempted murder and one of possession of two firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life in relation to the attack, which was claimed by the Real IRA.
Sappers Quinsey, from Birmingham, and Azimkar, from London, were shot as they collected pizza outside the gates of the barracks. The soldiers from 38 Engineer Regiment were just hours away from deploying to Afghanistan and already dressed in desert fatigues. Two other soldiers and two pizza delivery men were seriously injured when two masked men emerged from the Vauxhall attack car and opened fire with AK assault rifles, discharging 65 rounds in a sustained onslaught.
The trial is sitting without a jury. Shivers is on bail for its duration.
At the close of the Crown’s opening statement, Justice Deeny asked Mr Mooney if he would be relying on legal authorities to support his contention that if the prosecution evidence against Shivers is proved that would be sufficient to convict him of murder. The lawyer said he would cite authorities as the case progressed. The judge then asked that if, hypothetically, he found the evidence proved, but did not accept the defendant was guilty on a murder count, was there another offence he could consider. Mr Mooney said in such circumstances the judge could consider a count of assisting offenders.
Later, a number of police witnesses took the stand to outline details of crime scene maps and photographs that will be used during the trial. The case continues.