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Army veteran to go on trial charged with Troubles killing

Aidan McAnespie, 23, was killed in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone moments after walking through a border security checkpoint.

28 March 2022

An Army veteran will go on trial later charged with killing a man at a cross-border checkpoint in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

David Jonathan Holden, 52, is accused of the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie in February 1988.

Mr McAnespie, 23, was killed in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone moments after walking through a border security checkpoint.

He was on his way to a local Gaelic Athletic Association club when he was shot in the back.

Holden, a former Grenadier Guardsman from England, whose address on court documents is given as c/o Chancery House, Victoria Street, Belfast, is going on trial at the city’s Crown Court.

The non-jury case at Belfast Crown Court is proceeding amid the continuing controversy over Government plans to prohibit future Troubles-related prosecutions.

Dennis Hutchings court case
Dennis Hutchings died in the middle of his trial after contracting Covid-19 (Peter Morrison/PA)

Despite announcing its intent last summer, the Government is yet to table draft legislation in Parliament that would ban future prosecutions of military veterans and ex-paramilitaries for Troubles incidents predating April 1998.

The Holding case is one of a series of high-profile prosecutions of veterans that have been pursued in Northern Ireland in recent years.

In October last year, 80-year-old Dennis Hutchings died in the middle of his trial after contracting Covid-19.

A former member of the Life Guards regiment, Hutchings, from Cawsand in Cornwall, had been accused of the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham, a man with learning difficulties, in Co Tyrone in 1974.

Mr Cunningham, 27, was shot dead as he ran away from an Army patrol across a field near Benburb.

Six months earlier, the case against two other veterans who were accused of murdering republican leader Joe McCann in 1972 collapsed in the early stages of the trial.

The Crown said it would offer no further evidence against soldiers A and C after the judge ruled key statements given by the former paratroopers inadmissible.

Official IRA leader McCann, 24, was shot dead by soldiers as he attempted to evade arrest by a plain-clothes police officer in the Markets Area of Belfast in April 1972.

The judge’s ruling in the McCann case subsequently prompted prosecutors to discontinue the prosecution of the only former solider charged in connection with the Bloody Sunday killings in Londonderry in January 1972.

Soldier F had been charged with the murders of James Wray and William McKinney, but Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service dropped the case before it reached trial amid concerns it could collapse over the same sort of admissibility issue.

However, last week the High Court in Belfast quashed the PPS move and told prosecutors to reconsider their decision to halt the case against the veteran paratrooper.

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