Former soldier given suspended jail sentence for NI manslaughter

Former soldier, 53, is given three-year suspended jail sentence for manslaughter after shooting man in the back at Northern Ireland army checkpoint in 1988

Former soldier David Jonathan Holden has been given a suspended sentence of three years for the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie, who was shot in the back at an army checkpoint in Northern Ireland in 1988.

Holden was convicted of the killing in November. 

He was the first veteran to be found guilty of a historical offence in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement.

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.

David Jonathan Holden (pictured in November) was convicted of the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie in February 1988

Aidan McAnespie was shot close to a checkpoint in Co Tyrone in 1988 (McAnespie family/PA)

Holden had admitted firing the shot which killed Mr McAnespie but had said he had discharged 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 found that Holden had pointed a machine gun at McAnespie and pulled the trigger, while assuming the gun was not cocked.

Delivering judgment in the non-jury trial last week, the judge said: ‘That assumption should not have been made.’

He also said the former soldier had given a ‘deliberately false account’ of what happened.

The judge said: ‘The question for me is this – just how culpable is the defendant in the circumstances of this case?

‘In my judgment he is beyond any reasonable doubt criminally culpable.’


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