Killer soldiers get trial dates

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Two former British soldiers who fired on Official IRA man Joe McCann have failed to stop their trial for the murder of the Belfast father of four from going ahead.

Mr McCann was unarmed when he was shot from behind and then executed in public in April 1972. Soldier A, now 67, and Soldier C, 65, are surviving members of the patrol which fired more than ten bullets into him in the Markets area of Belfast city centre. A third member of the unit who fired on him died in the intervening years.

Mr McCann, who had been one of the Official IRA’s most prominent activists in the early days of the conflict, remains an iconic figure within republicanism, featuring on murals and also in republican ballads. His family have pointed out that he could and should have been arrested rather than shot.

Soldiers A and C had applied for their trial to be delayed on the basis of “delay and fairness”. However, the soldiers will now be given a trial date next month.

Outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr McCann’s family welcomed the decision, saying that the past four decades had “been very emotional, hard and frustrating”, but that they were “very happy with the result” that a trial will take place.

Their lawyer Niall Murphy of KRW Law, added that following the eight-month-long extensive application the court had decided to dismiss it and the family were “looking forward to their day in court and can’t understand why the defendants would fear an independent examination of the facts”. He said that the family “looked forward to a fair trial”.

HOLDEN TRIAL TO GO AHEAD

Meanwhile, a British soldier has lost a High Court challenge against the decision to prosecute him over the death of a Catholic man at a British checkpoint in February 1988.

Aidan McAnespie, 23, was struck in the back by one of three bullets fired from a machine gun in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, as he crossed the border to a GAA match. David Jonathan Holden, 50, is alleged to have carried out the killing and is facing trial for the manslaughter.

Holden had previously been charged with manslaughter but the case was suddenly dropped. That decision was reviewed in 2016 following a request by the Attorney General John Larkin, leading to the current legal proceedings.

Earlier this month, a district judge ruled that there is sufficient evidence for the accused to stand trial. Holden is due to appear at Belfast Crown Court on 14 February.

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