Ex-soldier who shot dead civilian Aidan McAnespie during Troubles convicted of manslaughter

25 November 2022, 13:20 | Updated: 25 November 2022, 13:56

David Johnathan Holden, 53, shot and killed Aidan McAnespie
David Johnathan Holden, 53, shot and killed Aidan McAnespie. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The former soldier who shot dead civilian Aidan McAnespie during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in 1988 has been found guilty of manslaughter.

Military veteran David Jonathan Holden, 53, was found guilty of killing Mr McAnespie by shooting him in the back 34 years ago.

The conviction makes Holden the first ex-solider to be convicted of historical Troubles offence since Good Friday Agreement

The shot fired by Holden ricocheted off the road and hit him in the back while he was walking through a border crossing on his way to a Gaelic football match.

Judge Mr Justice O'Hara found that David Holden had pointed a machine gun at Aidan and pulled the trigger, while assuming the gun was not cocked.

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He told Belfast Crown Court: "That assumption should not have been made."

He also said that 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."

The judge said the weapon controlled by Holden was "lethal in the extreme”.

He told Belfast Crown Court: "It is suggested on his behalf that it was not exceptionally bad or reprehensible for him to assume that the weapon was not cocked. I fundamentally disagree.

"In my judgment this was the ultimate "take no chances" situation because the risk of disaster was so great.

"The defendant should have appreciated at the moment he pulled the trigger that if the gun was cocked deadly consequences might follow.

"That is not something which is only apparent with hindsight.

"The defendant took an enormous risk for no reason in circumstances where he was under no pressure and in no danger.

"In light of the foregoing I find the defendant guilty of the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie by gross negligence."

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