Military veteran guilty of killing man in Northern Ireland at army checkpoint in 1988

A former soldier has been found guilty of killing a man at an army checkpoint in Northern Ireland more than 30 years ago. David Jonathan Holden, 53, had been trial at Belfast Crown Court accused of the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie in February 1988. Mr McAnespie, 23, was killed in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, moments after walking through a border security checkpoint.

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

Holden, who was 18 at the time, had admitted firing the shot which killed Mr McAnespie but had said he had fired the weapon by accident because his hands were wet.

But trial judge Mr 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.

Holden is a former Grenadier guardsman from England, whose address in court documents was given as c/o Chancery House, Victoria Street, Belfast.

The case was heard in a Diplock format without a jury sitting.

Supporters for Holden gathered outside the court each day the trial sat.

The trial proceeded amid continuing controversy over government plans to deal with Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

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The 53-year-old had denied the charge of gross negligent manslaughter during his non-jury trial at Belfast Crown Court.

But trial judge Mr Justice O’Hara said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty. He found Holden had pointed a machine gun at Mr McAnespie and pulled the trigger, while assuming the gun was not cocked.

He told Belfast Crown Court: “That assumption should not have been made.” He also said 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.”