Veteran guilty of 1988 Northern Ireland Army checkpoint shooting

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A veteran has been convicted of the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie, who was killed more than 30 years ago.

David Jonathan Holden, 53, had stood trial at Belfast Crown Court charged with the manslaughter of McAnespie in February 1988.

The 23-year-old was shot in the back at a Northern Ireland army checkpoint in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone.

A bullet fired about 300 yards ricocheted off the road surface, hitting McAnespie in the back, moments after passing through a border security checkpoint on his way to a local Gaelic Athletic Association club.

In 2009, the UK government said his death was a matter of “profound regret”.

Mr Holden, an English soldier who was 18 at the time, insisted it was an accident and claimed his hands were wet and his finger had slipped on the trigger of his machine gun.

He was charged with manslaughter in 1988, but the charge was later dropped. But the trial judge, Mr Justice O’Hara, said he was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Holden was guilty of gross negligence manslaughter.

David Holden arrives at Laganside Courts in Belfast

(PENNSYLVANIA)

He said Mr Holden should have appreciated from the moment he pulled the trigger the consequences of his actions.

The case was heard in a Diplock format without a jury hearing. Supporters of Holden gathered outside the court each day of the trial.

Aidan McAnespie’s family members, (left to right) cousin Brian Gormley, brothers Gerard and Sean and sister Margo, arrive with supporters at Laganside Courts in Belfast

(PENNSYLVANIA)

The trial came amid ongoing controversy over the government’s plans to deal with Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Inheritance and Reconciliation) Bills provide an effective amnesty for those suspected of having killed during the conflict, if they agree to co-operate with a new body, known as the Independent Commission for reconciliation and information recovery (Icrir).

The bill would also bar future civil cases and investigations related to disorderly crimes.

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