A Magherafelt man on trial for the murder of two British army soldiers has unexpectedly been charged with an additional lesser offence of assisting offenders just hours before the prosecution case against him closed.
Brian Shivers (47) is accused of the murder of sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar outside Massereene army barracks in March 2009.
Mr Shivers was charged with murder after his DNA was found on matches and a mobile phone found inside a getaway car used by the killers.
Last week the prosecution’s forensic experts conceded that there were at least four other DNA profiles on the matches and mobile phone and there was no proof that Mr Shivers had been the last person to handle the items.
The court was told the 47 year-old did not contest that it was his DNA on the matches and mobile phone but that he insisted that he must have touched the items in unconnected innocent circumstances.
The trial took an unexpected twist earlier today (Wednesday) when prosecution counsel, Terence Mooney QC, informed the court that the Co Derry man was to be charged with assisting offenders in addition to the existing charges of murder.
Trial judge Mr Justice Deeny asked: “If that is the appropriate offence. It is, of course, an alternative to the graver offences on the indictment.”
Mr Mooney replied: “That is so my lord.”
Mr Shivers’ defence counsel, Orlando Pownall QC, told the court: “I am not in a position to say that there is prejudice or that I would have asked different questions of other witnesses had I known the position ( decision to bring new charges). So, therefore, I cannot conceive of any proper objection to make.”
When then charged with the lesser offence of assisting offenders, Mr Shivers replied: “Not guilty, my Lord.”
The court was told that when originally charged by detectives with murder, the 47 year-old had replied: “I would like to say that I had nothing to do with the murders of the two soldiers or any of the other offences. I am not and never have been a member of the Real IRA. I am engaged to get married to my fiancée Lisa Leacock and we plan to have children.
“I spend most of my time looking after my health and I’m not going to spend whatever years I have left doing anything other than enjoying my life with my fiancée.
“I can’t understand how it is my DNA, if it is my DNA, if it is proven to be my DNA it can only be there for innocent purposes as I had nothing to do with this.”
Closing the prosecution case, Mr Mooney QC, said that the crown agreed with defence counsel that Mr Shivers had not been in the killers’ Cavalier getaway car at the time of the attack on the soldiers and that he is a man of “previous good character.”
Mr Pownall said that defence he would not be calling any witnesses and that Mr Shivers himself would not give evidence on his own behalf.
The court was told that Mr Shivers understood that the court was entitled to draw an adverse influence in relation to his decision not to give evidence on his own behalf.
The prosecution is due to make its closing submission tomorrow afternoon (Thursday) while defence counsel’s closing submission will be heard on Friday.