Military veteran guilty of killing man in Northern Ireland at army checkpoint in 1988

A former soldier has been found guilty of killing a man at an army checkpoint in Northern Ireland more than 30 years ago. David Jonathan Holden, 53, had been trial at Belfast Crown Court 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 had admitted firing the shot which killed Mr McAnespie but had said he had fired the weapon by accident because his hands were wet.

But trial judge Mr Justice O’Hara said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Holden was guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.

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

Holden is a former Grenadier guardsman from England, whose address in court documents was given as c/o Chancery House, Victoria Street, Belfast.

The case was heard in a Diplock format without a jury sitting.

Supporters for Holden gathered outside the court each day the trial sat.

The trial proceeded amid continuing controversy over government plans to deal with Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

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The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill proposals provide an effective amnesty for those suspected of killings 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 prohibit future civil cases and inquests related to Troubles crimes.

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

More to follow…