Former British soldier found guilty of manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie over 30 years ago

Former British soldier found guilty of manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie over 30 years ago

A FORMER British soldier has been found guilty of the manslaughter of a man at an army checkpoint in Tyrone more than 30 years ago.

David Jonathan Holden, now aged 53, was accused of the mansluahger of Aidan McAnespie who was shot in February 1988 at the age of 23.

He was killed just moments after walking through a Border security checkpoint, and had been on his way to a local GAA club when he was shot.

Holden maintained that he fired the weapon by accident as his hands were wet.

Mr Justice O’Hara said at the Belfast Crown Court he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Holden was guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.

He said that Holden, a former Grenardier guardsman from England, should have appreciated from the moment he pulled the trigger the consequences of his actions.

The case is one of the first of many prosecutions of British army veterans that have been pursued in Northern Ireland in recent years.

It comes as the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill proposes an effective amnesty for those suspected of killings during the conflict if they agree to cooperated with a new body known as the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery.

Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon commended the "steadfastness and resilience" of the family of Aidan McAnespie in their search for truth and justice following his killing by a British soldier.

Speaking after the verdict was announced in the High Court today, the Mid Ulster MLA said:

"I want to pay tribute to Aidan McAnespie’s family whose long and painful campaign for truth and justice has been a source of inspiration for so many.

"Despite years of delays, lies and cover-up by the British state, they have shown remarkable courage, determination, and dignity over the past 34 years.

"Today belongs to the McAnespie family."

She said the Legacy Bill "should be scrapped and mechanisms to give truth and justice to families at Stormont House in 2014 should be implemented."

SDLP West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan also welcomed the verdict.

"This is a landmark case in that it shows it’s still possible for victims and their families to get truth and justice for crimes committed in the past," he said.

"Today it was the McAnespie family, but there are thousands of victims and families across the North who still live in hope of holding perpetrators responsible for their actions

"The British government must now realise that there should be no prospect of any amnesty or an end to prosecutions for those accused of crimes. Their legacy bill is opposed by victims’ groups and every party here and it cannot be allowed to proceed. There can be no hiding place for anyone involved in some of the worst incidents in our past and I commend the McAnespie family for their determination and refusal to give up until justice for Aidan was secured."