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Former soldier to stand trial over Aidan McAnespie killing in 1988

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Aidan McAnespie, 23, was shot dead in Aughnacloy, Northern Ireland, in February 1988 (PA)

Aidan McAnespie, 23, was shot dead in Aughnacloy, Northern Ireland, in February 1988 (PA)

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Aidan McAnespie, 23, was shot dead in Aughnacloy, Northern Ireland, in February 1988 (PA)

A former soldier will stand trial for a Troubles-related death after a bid to have the case against him dropped was refused on Friday.

David Jonathan Holden (51) will appear at Belfast Crown Court next month when he will be formally charged with unlawfully killing Aidan Martin McAnespie on February 21, 1988.

Mr Justice O'Hara today rejected a legal application made on behalf of Holden to quashed the case, and expressed the hope that a trial can take place before Christmas.

Mr McAnespie died after being shot in the back as he made his way to a GAA match in February 1988.

The 23-year-old had just walked past an Army checkpoint on the Monaghan Road in Aughnacloy when he was shot and killed.

Former Grenadier Guardsman David Holden, who was 18 at the time, admitted he fired the fatal shot and claimed his hands were wet and his finger slipped off the trigger guard of his machine gun.

He was initially charged with manslaughter and in September 1988 the charge was dropped. In 2014, following requests by the McAnespie family, the case was re-examined by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) and a decision not to prosecute Holden was taken.

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Aidan McAnespie Pacemaker Belfast

Aidan McAnespie Pacemaker Belfast

Aidan McAnespie Pacemaker Belfast

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Following an investigation into the shooting by the Historical Enquires Team, the case was referred back to the PPS in 2016 by the Attorney General.

On this occasion, a decision was made to prosecute the former soldier on a charge of manslaughter.

A 'no bill' application was launched by Holden's defence at Belfast Crown Court on the grounds that the prosecution evidence was not sufficient enough to put him on trial.

Both Holden and several members of Mr McAnespie's family attended the hearing remotely, via videolink.

As he refused the 'no bill' application, Mr Justice O'Hara said that after careful consideration, he was satisfied there was "sufficient evidence to justify putting the defendant on trial for manslaughter”.

Holden will be formally charged with Mr McAnespie's manslaughter when the case is listed again on September 10.

After being told that the trial is expected to last three weeks, Mr Justice O'Hara said "for many reasons the trial has to be heard sooner rather than later”.



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