British soldier found guilty of manslaughter

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A guilty verdict in a case against the British soldier who killed Tyrone man Aidan McAnespie in 1988 is of “exceptional poignancy” for his family, according to justice campaigners.

David Holden (pictured, left) is the first British soldier to be convicted of a conflict-related crime since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and one of only a handful of British soldiers to have ever faced a prosecution.

Aidan McAnespie (right) was 23 years old and on his way to a local Gaelic sports club when he was suddenly shot dead at a border crossing at Aughnacloy.

Holden had claimed he had accidentally machine-gunned Mr McAnespie in the back after he crossed through the checkpoint because his “hands slipped”.

The judge found that version of events to be “entirely unconvincing, incoherent”. He said “he did not believe” Holden and that he had “created a false account of what happened”.

Trial judge Justice O’Hara said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Holden was guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence. He said that Holden should have appreciated from the moment he pulled the trigger the consequences of his actions.

Relatives for Justice said the tenacity and courage of the McAnespie family would give hope to many others who are also pursuing justice.

“Ultimately this is about the violent loss of a much loved son, brother and uncle and the far too long denial of justice,” they said. “Justice comes dropping slow.”

There were tears of joy for his family as the guilty verdice was announced.

Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley said his father John and sister Eilish “never gave up the fight for truth and justice”.

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