On 7 March 2009, Sapper Patrick Cengiz Azimkar of the Royal Engineers and his best mate Mark Quinsey were gunned down by the Real IRA as they left Massereene Barracks in Antrim, Northern Ireland, to get a last pizza before leaving for Afghanistan. Patrick was aged 21 and Mark 23.
The murders, coming during a lull in Protestant-Catholic hostilities, shocked Antrim and the nation as a whole, causing an outburst of popular sympathy for the two young men. In particular, the Royal Engineers Regiment clasped the two men to its heart, in a ceremony which stands out in its 300-year history.
Every Remembrance Day, Sappers old and new now observe a minute’s silence and hear the Last Post at the memorial in Massereene Barracks, before joining the Mayor of Antrim and local residents in the town square in front of another memorial to Patrick and Mark.
During the ensuing trial, the court heard that Patrick saved a colleague’s life seconds before he died. His Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Roger Lewis, said at the time: “Sapper Pat Azimkar exemplified a highly motivated young soldier.”
“Ambitious and full of energy, he was always willing to go the extra mile to get the job done, never ceasing to amaze me with his cheerful approach regardless of the conditions.
“Pat’s true grit and determination – in particular his commitment to supporting his mates – showed his full potential for training as a Non-Commissioned Officer,” added Lieutenant Colonel Lewis.
“There are no words to describe the devastation we have suffered from losing Patrick and twelve years on and we miss him as much as ever”
Speaking for herself and her Turkish Cypriot husband Mehmet, Patrick’s mother Geraldine told T-VINE:
“Patrick was always a strong and sporty boy who excelled at football. He played for successful club teams in London, as well as in his Edmonton school team, which reached the English Schools Cup final, held at the Aston Villa FC stadium.
Patrick, whose middle name was Cengiz after the great warrior Genghis Khan, joined the Royal Engineers when he was 18, primarily to learn a trade, carpentry. “He’d always loved working with wood and watching his carpenter dad at work,” explained Geraldine.
“He enjoyed army life, the physical and mental challenges it posed, and the camaraderie between the lads. During his short time in the Royal Engineers, he made a lot of very good friends. In fact, we found out after his death that some of those boys were so close, they were more like brothers than friends. We saw that after Patrick’s murder.”
Discussing her son’s senseless murder in 2009 at the hands of terrorists remains intensely painful for Geraldine.
“There are no words to describe the devastation we have suffered from losing Patrick and twelve years on and we miss him as much as ever. Our loss and sadness are like an open wound that Mehmet, his brother James and I will take to our graves.
“That the suspected murderers were allowed to walk free is a heavy burden for us to carry. Mark Quinsey’s mum, Pam, sadly died of a broken heart a few weeks after the man who we believe murdered Mark got off on appeal.
“Mehmet and I have been to Northern Ireland many times over the last 12 years and we have found the Northern Irish people and the residents of Antrim Town in particular to be incredibly kind, compassionate and genuinely devastated by what happened to Patrick and Mark.
“In fact I’ve often said that it feels to me that they ‘adopted’ Patrick and Mark as sons of Antrim and 12 years later they continue to honour their memory.
“It means a great deal to us, as a family when we hear about ex Royal Engineers also taking the time and trouble to visit the boys’ memorial in Antrim or lay a wreath on Remembrance Day outside the old barracks, where that terrible act of evil was committed.”
After a pause, Geraldine adds, “It’s important and heart-warming for us to know that Patrick lives on in the memory of very many people.”
The Azimkars decided to sell the medal awarded to their son, raising £30,000 for charity. Doing good in their son’s name is a vital way of remembering their kind and beautiful boy.
“Something beautiful that Patrick would be so proud of is that there are now four ‘baby Patricks’: children born to Patrick’s friends over the last 12 years and named after him: Ethan Patrick, Blake Pat, Harry Patrick and Monty Patrick. One way or another, our Patrick lives on in these children.”