Northern Irish court quashes conviction for soldiers' killing

BELFAST Tue Jan 15, 2013 11:02am EST

1 of 2. Brian Shivers arrives at Antrim Courthouse, where he is on trial for murder with co-accused Colin Duffy, in Antrim January 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton

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BELFAST (Reuters) - A Northern Ireland court on Tuesday quashed the conviction of the only man jailed over the 2009 murder of two British soldiers outside an army base in Northern Ireland.

Brian Shivers was found guilty last year of being involved in the killing of Patrick Azimkar, 21, and Mark Quinsey, 23, outside the Massereene Barracks in Antrim as they collected a pizza hours before they were due to fly to Afghanistan.

The judge at the time ruled Shivers had set fire to the murderers' getaway car - and that was enough to show he had been involved in the plot to kill the soldiers and was therefore legally responsible for their murders.

He was given a life sentence.

But the Court of Appeal overturned that decision on Tuesday saying Shivers' act was not enough to convict him of murder.

"The Court did not accept that a person who provides assistance after a murder with full knowledge of what has happened becomes guilty of murder," the court of appeal ruling said.

Shivers, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, had denied involvement. He will remain in custody until the Public Prosecution Service decides whether to seek a retrial.

The shooting was one of the worst attacks in the British-controlled province since a 1998 peace deal largely ended 30 years of conflict between Catholic Irish nationalists seeking union with Ireland and Protestant loyalists determined to remain part of the United Kingdom.

The Real IRA, which broke from the Irish Republican Army after the peace deal, has claimed responsibility for the killings.

The appeals court quashed Shivers' conviction on two counts of murder, six counts of attempted murder and one of possession of two firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

(Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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