A man accused of murdering two soldiers is a highly unlikely terrorist, a court heard today.
Brian Shivers has never committed any criminal offences and has a limited lifespan because he is suffering from cystic fibrosis, his barrister told the court.
Shivers and Colin Duffy deny the murder of Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar, who were shot outside their army base in Antrim.
Patrick O’Connor QC told Belfast Crown Court sitting in Antrim: “Brian Shivers is a highly unlikely terrorist.
“He is 46 years old and has never committed a criminal offence in his life. He has a lack of propensity to offend and is credible as a witness in his own defence.”
Sappers Quinsey, 23, and Azimkar, 21, were shot dead by the Real IRA as they collected pizzas with comrades outside Massereene Army base in Antrim town in March 2009.
Duffy, 44, from Forest Glade in Lurgan, Co Armagh, and Shivers, 46, from Sperrin Mews, in Magherafelt, Co Derry, deny two charges of murder and the attempted murder of six others – three soldiers, two pizza delivery drivers and a security guard.
Mr Shivers has admitted attending meetings of republican socialist group Eirigi but said he never joined and supports the peace process.
Mr O’Connor added: “With all these powers and opportunities the Crown has been unable to place before you any sign of a political motive or a commitment which could lie behind this.”
He said his client had serious medical difficulties.
“Mr Shivers is someone who lives under the shadow of a limited lifespan for medical reasons,” he added.
He said that in no way does that mean that he is necessarily innocent or could not have committed the offences but added it would tend to have a “sobering effect” on a man’s approach to life.
“It renders it less likely that he should suddenly out of the blue engage in some mad terrorist adventure,” he added.
He said the amount of DNA evidence linking his client to a mobile phone and matchsticks in the getaway car was tiny.
“The fact that every one of the traces attributed to Mr Shivers are low template DNA and each of them has a sign that there maybe at least one other contributor, it is a very fragile exercise indeed,” Mr O’Connor added.
He said Shivers' DNA may have reached matches discovered in the attack car through secondary contact with somebody who was at Ranaghan Road where the vehicle was abandoned.
Dominic McGlinchey Jnr regularly visited the accused and had used his matches, Shivers has told the court.
Yesterday, defence barrister Barry MacDonald QC told judge Mr Justice Anthony Hart that police had reliable information that a son of Dominic McGlinchey Snr, a dead leading republican, was the getaway vehicle driver.
Mr O’Connor added: “The edifice of coincidence, we submit, crumbles and comes down to the kind of mechanism for the arrival of DNA traces in a place, which has been scientifically demonstrated as possible, in a decontaminated environment such as a DNA lab.”
He added: “Extreme caution must be applied to the very low template DNA in this case.
“There is no satisfactory basis for finding his DNA was present on the inside of the phone and the single match (found close to attack car) was so very weak that that must be discarded.”
Mr O’Connor also discussed CCTV evidence which showed a Mercedes which the prosecution alleged to be Shivers’ close to the possible attack car in Magherafelt before the shooting.
He said Shivers and his partner Lisa Leacock had not together concocted a story of his movements, demonstrated by the fact that the accused was unable to provide a confirmed alibi for his movements on the night of the shooting.
Mr O’Connor concluded: “Individually and cumulatively, these arguments present an insurmountable barrier to a safe and proper conviction of Mr Shivers and it is therefore with confidence that we invite you to find him not guilty of these terrorist charges.”
The judge reserves his verdict and said he hoped to deliver it as early as possible in the New Year.