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Retired soldier charged with fatal shooting of man with learning difficulties in 1974

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 27/04/2015

An aerial view of the scene at Carrickaness Road, Benburb, on June 15, 1974, following the fatal shooting of John Pat Cunningham
An aerial view of the scene at Carrickaness Road, Benburb, on June 15, 1974, following the fatal shooting of John Pat Cunningham
John Pat Cunningham was shot by the Army in a field in Benburb

A 73-year-old former soldier has appeared in court charged with the attempted murder of a man with learning difficulties over 40 years ago.

Dennis Hutchings, of Torpoint, Cornwall, was released on £500 bail after appearing at Omagh Magistrates Court at the weekend.

John-Pat Cunningham (27) was shot dead by an Army patrol in June 1974.

White-haired Hutchings stood solemnly in the dock flanked by a police officer.

He spoke to confirm his identity, date of birth and replied "I do" when asked if he understood the charge against him.

Hutchings was arrested in England last Tuesday and brought to Northern Ireland for questioning by officers investigating Troubles-related deaths. A detective told the court he believed he could connect him to the charge.

Mr Cunningham, who had the mental age of a child between six and 10, had a fear of men in uniform and was running away from an Army patrol when he was killed close to Benburb village, on the border between Co Armagh and Tyrone. The Government apologised for his death in 2013.

The PSNI's legacy investigations branch reopened the case after a re-examination of the available evidence.

Hutchings was ordered to surrender his passport and not to contact witnesses. He was excused from the next hearing in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, on June 3.

Belfast Telegraph

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