A prominent republican accused of murdering two British soldiers in Co Antrim in March has been refused bail at the High Court in Belfast.

Colin Duffy, from Lurgan in Co Armagh, is accused of murdering sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Akimzar outside Massareene British army base. He also faces five counts of attempted murder.

Mr Duffy's lawyers have applied for him to be freed on bail, but Mr Justice Weatherup was told by prosecution lawyers that the killings were among the most serious in Northern Ireland in the last ten years.

The judge ruled that Mr Duffy should remain in custody due to the gravity of the offences and the continued threat posed by the Real IRA, which is held responsible for the killings.

Despite stressing the presumption of innocence, the judge held that the balance fell in favour of protecting the public.

Mr Justice Weatherup said: 'It is a very serious matter which resulted in the loss of two lives and there is a group, the Real IRA, which appears intent on repeating this loss of life being inflicted on others.'

Mr Duffy's lawyer claimed that only a tenuous case existed against his client and he said there was little chance of Mr Duffy standing trial before next autumn.