DNA 'match' in getaway car in N. Ireland soldier murders

16th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

The DNA of two men on trial for the murder of two British soldiers shot dead outside their Northern Ireland barracks almost certainly matches samples found in the getaway car, a court heard Wednesday.

Some of the material is almost six trillion times more likely to have come from one of the accused men than from anyone else, a US expert in DNA told Antrim Crown Court in the British province.

Prominent republican Colin Duffy, 43, and Brian Shivers, 46, deny murder and six charges of attempted murder over the shootings outside the Massereene army barracks in Antrim, northwest of Belfast, in March 2009.

Patrick Azimkar, 21, and Mark Quinsey, 23, were the first British soldiers to be murdered in Northern Ireland since 1997, and their deaths sparked fears of a resumption of sectarian violence.

Doctor Mark Perlin, an internationally-recognised DNA expert, has developed a computer-based statistical system for analysing forensic samples containing more than one person's DNA.

He told the court the results of samples from the suspects' DNA compared with material from a seat belt buckle and a mobile telephone found in the car, which was abandoned and partially burnt outside Antrim.

"A match between the buckle and Mr Duffy would be 5.9 trillion times more probable than a coincidental match" with anyone else, he said.

Meanwhile a sample retrieved from inside the mobile phone was 6.01 billion times more likely to belong to Shivers than another person, the court heard.

Defence lawyers challenged the reliability of Perlin's system.

The court has been shown security camera footage showing five soldiers walking out of the barracks to collect a pizza delivery. Two masked men then appeared and opened fire.

The attack was claimed by the Real IRA (Irish Republican Army), a dissident paramilitary group opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process.

Northern Ireland endured three decades of sectarian bombings and shootings pitting Catholics who wanted the province to join with the Republic of Ireland against Protestants who wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom.

The violence largely ended with 1998 peace accords, which paved the way for a power-sharing administration in Belfast, although sporadic attacks continue.

© 2011 AFP

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