British soldier to face prosecution

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A British soldier who shot dead a man as he walked through a British Army checkpoint in the North of Ireland is to face prosecution.

Aidan McAnespie was aged 23 when he killed at the border in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, in February 1988 as he walked towards a Gaelic football match.

But today, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has announced its intention to prosecute a 48-year-old former soldier for gross negligence manslaughter.

Mr McAnespie was on his way to a local GAA club when he was shot with a machine gun by the soldier. He had been hounded and harrassed by the Crown Forces since 1981 and right up until the morning of his death, when he and his mother Elizabeth were stopped and detained at Aughnacloy UDR base for two hours on their way back from the wake of a relative.

He had been the target of systematic harrassment since the age of 17. On the day of his death, his movements would have been routinely noted by the Crown forces as he passed through the checkpoint. He was killed by a single bullet.

The soldier claimed his hands were wet and his finger slipped on the trigger of his heavy military weapon and he was initially charged with manslaughter only for the charge to later be dropped.

He was later fined for negligently firing his weapon.

The McAnespie family have welcomed the historic decision to prosecute a soldier. His brother Vincent said the family had faced a “brick wall” in their 30-year campaign.

“It’s truth and justice we want to get,” he said.

“He was just an ordinary local lad from the community that just wanted to go about his ordinary everyday life.”

Cousin Brian Gormley said relatives were relieved the circumstances of the case were going to be examined in a court of law.

“The opportunity of actually getting to the truth of what happened in this case is still very much alive and we as a family are committed to pursuing that until we get to the very bottom of what happened that day,” he said. “This is one further step.”

Michelle Gildernew, Sinn Fein MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone told the Telegraph: “We have consistently called for transparency in all cases for families to get the truth they deserve. Every family has the right to know what happened to their loved ones”.

“We’re not the only ones who have suffered,” she said, “but we’re not the only ones to have inflicted suffering”.

“The only people not to be held to account were those involved in state killings.”

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