Northern Ireland

Acquittal for Colin Duffy is the latest for prominent republican

Lurgan man had been arrested in 2013 over north Belfast gun attack

Colin Duffy leaves Laganside Court on Thursday after being acquitted of terrorism charges.
Colin Duffy leaves Laganside Court on Thursday after being acquitted of terrorism charges.

Prominent Co Armagh republican Colin Duffy was at the centre of what became one of the north’s longest running trials, before been acquitted of the offences alleged to have been committed over a decade ago.

Thursday’s acquittal is the latest for the Lurgan man, who almost faced a life sentence at the age of 27.

He had been convicted in 1995 over the IRA murder two years earlier of 57-year-old retired UDR man John Lyness in Lurgan.

Colin Duffy and Tommy Mellon at the Saoradh ard fheis. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Colin Duffy and Tommy Mellon at the Saoradh ard fheis in 2016.

A year after he was sentenced, but after spending three years in prison, his conviction was quashed at the Court of Appeal after the jailing of a key loyalist witness in his trial for gunrunning.

Lindsay Robb, a member of the PUP, had helped convict Duffy from his evidence behind a screen as ‘Witness C’, claiming he had seen the defendant flee the scene of the murder.

His evidence was later discredited after he was sentenced to 10 years in prison at a court in Edinburgh in December 1995 for conspiracy to acquire and run guns to the UVF.

Following the killing of RUC officers David Johnston and John Graham, shot dead in Lurgan in June 1997, Duffy was charged with their murders.

However, within months the charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence. Duffy would years later seek damages for alleged wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. He dropped the legal action in 2013.

In 2009, Duffy was charged with the murders of British soldiers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey at Massereene Barracks in Antrim.



He was also charged and pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one of having a firearm and ammunition in relation to the attack, which happened as the 21 and 23-year-old soldiers went to collect a pizza delivery outside their barracks.

Forensic officers examine the scene outside Massereene Barracks following the murder of sappers Mark Quinsey (23) and Patrick Azimkar (21)
Forensic officers examine the scene outside Massereene Barracks following the murder of sappers Mark Quinsey (23) and Patrick Azimkar (21).

His co-defendant Brian Shivers was initially convicted of the two murders, before being found not guilty after a retrial.

Duffy was also found not guilty.

He later complained to the European Court of Human Rights that his detention following arrest over the Massereene attack was incompatible with rules governing lawful arrest and detention.

The claim was rejected by the court in 2015.

Duffy was arrested in by police investigating the New IRA murder of prison officer David Black on the M1 motorway in 2012 but later released and not charged.

Colin Duffy taking part in the Anti-Internment League parade through Belfast City Centre. Picture by Mal McCann
Colin Duffy taking part in an Anti-Internment League parade through Belfast City Centre.

The long-running case behind his latest acquittal began less than two weeks after a gun attack on PSNI vehicles in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast in December 2013.

The senior republican was arrested, charged and remanded in custody over the shooting, along with co-accused Henry Joseph Fitzsimmons and Alec McCrory.

It would take almost six years for the trial to get underway, and another five before the case ended with Duffy being found not guilty.