Court hears of soil link

SOIL sample evidence has emerged to allegedly link prominent republican Colin Duffy to the murders of two soldiers, the High Court has been told.

Prosecutors claimed expert examination of a Mercedes car belonging to his co-accused, Brian Shivers, has established a further connection to the killings.

Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey were shot dead at Massereene Army barracks in Antrim in March 2009.

Mr Duffy, who denies the murders, was again refused bail.

The 43-year-old, of Forest Glade, Lurgan, also pleaded not guilty to six counts of attempted murder and possession of firearms with intent in connection with the Real IRA murder of soldiers collecting food from pizza delivery men.

Masked gunmen fired at least 60 rounds of ammunition at the victims before escaping in a waiting car.

Mr Shivers, 45, of Sperrin Mews, Magherafelt, denies the same charges.

The two men are due to stand trial later this year.

DNA evidence forms part of the prosecution case, with claims that Mr Duffy’s profile matched the tip of a latex glove recovered from the partially burnt-out Vauxhall Cavalier getaway car.

Soil samples from a hold-all in the vehicle containing camouflage jackets, balaclavas and ammunition were also said to be similar to those found on a boot belonging to Mr Duffy.

Opposing the suspect’s renewed application for bail, Crown counsel Tessa Kitson told the court on Friday that additional expert evidence was supplied last month.

She claimed that another sample of soil taken from Mr Shivers’ Mercedes car has established a connection between it, the Vauxhall and the hold-all.

“The prosecution would say at this stage it is a further link between the applicant and the incident, and indeed between the applicant and his co-accused.”

Mrs Kitson argued that a specific alleged role played by Mr Duffy did not have to be identified.

But defence barrister Mark Mulholland insisted the prosecution was unable to attribute a role to his client due to “the paucity of the evidence”.

He also pointed out that the Crown no longer alleged that Mr Duffy was one of the gunmen, while two witnesses had failed to pick him out in identification processes.

But refusing bail, Mr Justice Deeny held that the nature of the alleged offences was relevant.

The judge said: “This was a successfully planned and ruthlessly executed terrorist attack, and the applicant is in the position that there is a prima facie case that he was actively involved or involved in some significant way in the joint enterprise.”

He noted the allegation was of involvement in “the taking of human life for reasons it would appear connected to support for dissident republican beliefs”.

Mr Justice Deeny added: “That dissident republican campaign continues, with a further tragic murder (Constable Ronan Kerr) in relatively recent months.

“Therefore one must infer that his release would carry a real risk of encouragement being given to that campaign, ie the real risk of further offences.”