Troubles killing of man at checkpoint results in prosecution 30 years on

A soldier who shot dead a man as he walked through an Army checkpoint during the Troubles is to be prosecuted.

Aidan McAnespie, 23, was killed in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, in February 1988.

Mr McAnespie was on his way to a local Gaelic Athletic Association club when he was shot in the back.

At the time the soldier, David Jonathan Holden, insisted it was an accident, claiming his hands were wet and his finger slipped on the trigger of his heavy machine gun.

Aidan McAnespie death investigation
Aidan McAnespie death investigation

The Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has now announced its intention to prosecute the 48-year-old former Grenadier Guardsman for gross negligence manslaughter.

Mr Holden, who was 18 at the time, was initially charged with manslaughter in 1988 but the charge was later dropped.

Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin had asked the PPS to re-examine the circumstances of the case following a request by the family for a fresh inquest.

Mr Larkin made the referral after reviewing the findings of a report into the shooting by the police's Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

It is understood the decision to prosecute hinged on the findings of a fresh ballistics report.

The UK government expressed "deep regret" about the killing in 2009.

Mr McAnespie's family has claimed he had been harassed by soldiers as he passed through the checkpoint on previous occasions.

A PPS spokeswoman said: "Following careful consideration of all the evidence currently available in the case, and having received advice from senior counsel it has been decided to prosecute a former soldier for the offence of gross negligence manslaughter.

"That evidence includes further expert evidence in relation to the circumstances in which the general purpose machine gun was discharged, thereby resulting in the ricochet shot which killed Mr McAnespie."

It is understood the ex-soldier was informed of the prosecution decision by email on Tuesday morning. Formal papers will be served on his legal representatives in the coming weeks.