Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Funeral for murdered NI soldier

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The service for Mark Quinsey at Immanuel Church in Birmingham

The funeral has taken place of one of two soldiers shot dead by the Real IRA in Northern Ireland.

Mark Quinsey, 23, was murdered with his colleague Patrick Azimkar as they took delivery of a pizza at Massereene Barracks in Antrim on 7 March.

Hundreds paid their respects at Sapper Quinsey's funeral at Immanuel Church, in Highters Heath, Birmingham.

Police have been given until the weekend to continue questioning four men in connection with the killings.

The family of the soldier, who was murdered hours before he was due to leave for Afghanistan, said on Wednesday he had been "cheated of the opportunity to serve his country".

Mark Quinsey

Sapper Quinsey's sister, Jaime Quinsey, described his killers as "cowards" and said her "best friend" did not deserve to die.

Reading a letter she had written to her brother, the 25-year-old told the service: "You were the most caring, respectable young lad I knew.

"You did not deserve what those cowards did to you."

She added: "There were two years between us but I remember how everyone thought we were twins.

"I remember the first time you (tried) on your uniform.

"You looked a proper proud soldier and that's when I realised my little brother was a man.

"Mum thought that she would hold her children's hands for the rest of her life.

Sister's tribute to murdered soldier

"Dad says he has lost his best friend. You will always remain in our hearts."

Church leaders from all the Christian denominations in Ireland were among those at the service.

In a statement read by his commanding officer on the family's behalf before the funeral, Sapper Quinsey was described as "fun and popular" with a "brilliant sense of humour".

The family statement, read by Lt Col Roger Lewis, commanding officer of 38 Engineer Regiment, said: "Mark was right at the very heart of our family and we thought he'd be there forever.

"It is so hard for us to understand why this happened to him.

"Mark loved life. He was fun, popular and had a brilliant sense of humour, attracting a large circle of friends who he was very close to.

'Touched by sympathy'

"He was looking forward to going to Afghanistan - he wanted to prove what he was made of.

"As a family, we've been very touched by the outpouring of sympathy.

"We have 23 years of wonderful memories with Mark but we will miss him every day of the rest of our lives."

Lt Col Lewis told the funeral service that Sapper Quinsey was "charismatic and affable" and an "immensely keen" young soldier.

He added that he was "calm, resolute and motivated".

Army chaplain, the Reverend Colin Butler said: "Whilst it is very difficult to speak of good coming out of Mark's death I know that his family are pleased at the rejection of these gunmen and their ways.

"We have witnessed an unprecedented coming together in the whole island of Ireland, north and south, in a way that speaks mightily of the people's desire to have peace."

Sapper Quinsey, of 25 Field Squadron, 38 Engineer Regiment, was shot dead on 7 March.



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