Former British Soldier to face manslaughter trial for 1988 killing of unarmed man on way to GAA match
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Former British Soldier to face manslaughter trial for 1988 killing of unarmed man on way to GAA match

THE KILLER of 23-year-old Aidan McAnespie in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone in 1988 is to face trial for manslaughter, a Belfast judge ruled yesterday.

David Holden, a former British Soldier who was stationed in Northern Ireland, was 18 at the time of the killing 32 years ago.

Mr McAnespie was shot in the back by one of three bullets which discharged from the soldier's gun, just after he walked through an army checkpoint while on the way to a GAA match.

Mr Holden has always maintained that the killing was accidental, claiming he was operating the machine gun with wet hands when it slipped.

He was initially charged with manslaughter in 1988, but the charge was dropped and he was instead given a medical discharge.

A 2016 review by Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service into the decision to drop charges eventually led to the proceedings which saw 50-year-old David Holden appear at Dungannon Magistrates' Court Belfast yesterday, charged with gross negligence manslaughter.

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According to RTÉJudge Brady, addressing the court, confirmed there was sufficient evidence in the case for Mr Holden to stand trial for the killing of Aidan McAnespie, dismissing a defence application from Mr Holden's lawyers that he would not receive a fair trial due to the 32-year-long gap in proceedings.

He was released on bail and will appear on the Crown Court in Belfast on 14 February.

The family of Aidan McAnespie were present in the court, and brother Vincent spoke after the hearing, BBC reports.

"The family is very happy after such a long process of waiting to get to this stage that the judge has strongly come out firmly saying that yes - there is a case to be answered," he said.