Duffy found not guilty of killing British soldiers

A high-profile republican was cleared today of murdering two British soldiers outside an Army base in the North.

A high-profile republican was cleared today of murdering two British soldiers outside an Army base in the North.

Colin Duffy was acquitted at Antrim Crown Court of the killings of Sappers Patrick Azimkar, 21, from London, and Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham, who were ambushed by gunmen from the dissident republican Real IRA at the gates of Massereene barracks in Antrim on March 7 2009.

A decision is awaited on the second defendant, Brian Shivers (aged 46) from Sperrin Mews in Magherafelt, Co Derry.

Judge Anthony Hart told the court that he was satisfied that Duffy's DNA was found on a latex glove tip inside the car and on a seat buckle but he said the prosecution had failed to link the defendant to the murder plot.

He said: "I consider that there is insufficient evidence to satisfy me beyond reasonable doubt that whatever Duffy may have done when he wore the latex glove, or touched the seatbelt buckle, meant that he was preparing the car in some way for this murderous attack.

"And I therefore find him not guilty."

It is the second time Duffy has been cleared of murder.

The 44-year-old first hit the headlines 20 years ago after he was cleared of an IRA murder.

An IRA gunman on a bicycle shot former soldier John Lyness, 57, in Lurgan in June 1993.

Duffy, described in court as an unemployed labourer, was subsequently convicted of the murder. But the prosecution case hinged on the testimony of anonymous witnesses who gave evidence from behind a curtain - and in particular on the evidence of a man known only as Witness C.

He turned out to be Lindsay Robb, who was subsequently jailed after police in Scotland smashed a UVF gun-running plot in July 1995.

Following a public campaign for his release, backed by nationalist political leaders in the North and the Republic, Duffy's conviction was quashed because the prosecution could no longer rely on a star witness publicly revealed to be a loyalist paramilitary.

Duffy walked from the Court of Appeal in Belfast a free man and later gave an impromptu press conference outside the gates of the High Court, alleging police wrongdoing and insisting he was innocent.

Three years earlier, Duffy, then aged 22, was caught up in a loyalist gun attack that remains, to this day, shrouded in controversy.

He and two other republicans were reporting to Lurgan's Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) station to sign in as part of bail conditions on charges of possession of ammunition.

The trio were followed by a red Maestro car, later revealed to be a military intelligence vehicle, before a second car also appeared on the scene.

Two masked men armed with AK-47 assault rifles stepped out of the second vehicle and pursued the three republicans.

Amid a hail of bullets, a friend of Duffy called Sam Marshall was wounded and fell to the ground. One of the gunmen stood over the 31-year-old and levelled the weapon at his head. A witness claimed: "He faced the masked man, and the masked man killed him."

Duffy escaped the murder bid launched by the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), but the alleged security force link saw Sinn Féin call for a full inquiry at the time.

n 1997, Duffy faced more murder charges after two police officers on foot patrol were shot around midday in the centre of Lurgan.

Constable John Graham and Reserve Constable David Johnston were both in their 30s and married with young children.

Duffy was arrested by police who claimed a witness linked him to the killing.

But the case collapsed after other witnesses came forward in defence of Duffy.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.