Justice For John Pat Cunningham
John Pat Cunningham
The trial is underway of a former British Soldier, Denis Hutchings, in Belfast. He is accused of the murder of John Pat Cunningham on 15th June 1974.
John Pat was a vulnerable adult with a mental age of between 6 and 10. He was walking home from Benburb Priory, in County Tyrone, when the British Army patrol led by Denis Hutchings came across him.
John Pat had a fear of men in uniforms. He ran into a field and was chased by two of the soldiers who claimed to have ordered him to stop.
They dropped to their knees took aim and fired five shots at John Pat who was 100 yards away with his back to the patrol. Three of the shots were fired from Mr. Hutchings’s rifle and two from the rifle of a now-dead soldier.
Three of the shots hit John Pat in the back and he fell dead in the muddy field. He was no threat to the soldiers.
There was no ballistics retained to identify which of the soldiers fired the fatal shots. There was no real investigation into the shooting. It took three days for the police to interview the soldiers, who declined to fully answer questions. The case was dropped
The British government at the time paid the family £750 for damages and funeral costs.
The killing was re-examined as part of a review of historical cases.
The new report into his death found,
“John Pat’s death was an absolute tragedy that should not have happened. He was a vulnerable adult who was unarmed and shot as he was running away from soldiers. There is no evidence that he posed a threat to the soldiers or anyone else.”
And added, “the full facts of the case about John Pat’s death were never being established.”
A new police investigation was ordered, and charges were put of attempted murder to Hutchings. The lack of ballistic information means that the charge of murder could not be put.
The case continues in Belfast, we await to see if John Pat Cunningham will receive the justice it was denied for so many years,