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  • Writer's pictureGreg O'Loughlin

British soldier who fired fatal shot found guilty of manslaughter

Aidan McAnespie was 23 years old when he was shot and killed while passing a permanent British Army checkpoint in 1988. He had been on his way to a GAA match in the Tyrone village of Aughnacloy.

He regularly passed the checkpoint and was frequently stopped, harassed, and threatened. Today a court in Belfast found the British soldier who fired the fatal shot guilty of manslaughter. David Holden admitted firing the shot but said his finger slipped on the trigger because his hands had been wet from cleaning duties.

Trial judge Mr. Justice O'Hara said Holden had given a deliberately false account of what happened and that he was criminally culpable.

The family had been fighting for truth and justice for 34 years. At every step, they were met by delay and cover-up by the British Military and Government.

Brian Gormley, a cousin of Mr. McAnespie, welcomed the ruling and said today was a day of "mixed emotions" for the family.

"Some people will wonder why do families persist for 34 years following cases this old. Well, it's very clear: John - Aidan's father - the day that the PPS announced that David Holden was going to be prosecuted, said the only demand he had is that he hears the truth because as a family we did not believe the version of events that David Holden or the British government put out at the time of Aidan's shooting.

"I think we have been corroborated in terms of Justice O'Hara's ruling today."

Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has 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. “

Ms. Dillon said, “ Rulings like today’s one is exactly why the British Government wants to hide the role of its state forces who killed Irish citizens by forcing through an amnesty.

“The British government’s cruel, offensive and callous Legacy Bill should be scrapped and mechanisms to give truth and justice to families agreed at Stormont House in 2014 should be implemented.

“Sinn Féin will continue to stand with the McAnespie family and offer our ongoing solidarity.

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