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Family 'shocked to core' that body part of shot man was dumped after autopsy


The funeral of Aidan McAnespie passes through the checkpoint where he was shot in 1988

The funeral of Aidan McAnespie passes through the checkpoint where he was shot in 1988

Aidan McAnespie

Aidan McAnespie

The funeral of Aidan McAnespie passes through the checkpoint where he was shot in 1988

The family of a man shot dead at a border checkpoint 30 years ago have said they are shocked to learn that a body part belonging to him has been disposed of.

Aidan McAnespie was killed in disputed circumstances by a soldier as he walked towards a GAA club outside Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, in 1988.

Relatives have campaigned for seven years for the return of part of his breastbone, which was removed at the time a post-mortem was carried out at Craigavon hospital.

A letter sent from the coroner's office, from state pathologist Dr James Lyness to the family's solicitor Darragh Mackin, confirmed that the body part, which "contained the exit bullet wound", had been "disposed of".

Mr Mackin has written to the coroner's office calling for all notes and records taken by the state pathologist who performed the autopsy on Mr McAnespie's body to be handed over to the family.

Mr McAnespie (23) was killed in close proximity to an Army checkpoint at Aughnacloy, on the Tyrone-Monaghan border.

He was walking towards Aghaloo GAA grounds when he was struck with bullets fired from a gun held by Grenadier Guardsman David Holden on February 21, 1988.

Holden, who was discharged from the Army on medical grounds in 1990, initially faced manslaughter charges. However, these were subsequently dropped and he was fined by the Army for negligent discharge of his weapon before being allowed to return to duty.

Mr McAnespie's brother, Vincent, told the Belfast Telegraph that discovering the missing part of his brother's remains are lost to the family has added insult to injury and left them with many more unanswered questions.

"For the past seven years the family has wanted Aidan's remains left back with us because we wanted a Christian burial in consecrated ground but that has been denied to us," he said.

"We believed there was no reason for anyone to be holding on to them, but we were sent from pillar to post trying to get answers.

"Now we find out from the justice department that Aidan's body part had been disposed of shortly after the post-mortem. It shocked us to the core to see that written down and it just left us wondering just exactly what they meant by 'disposed of'.

"For seven years they knew what had happened but they said nothing which just added insult to injury.

"My father is 83 now and I had to go and break this to him which wasn't an easy thing to do.

"He has lost his wife, our mother, and our sister too since Aidan was killed, so it was very difficult for him to hear that."

In his letter to Mr Mackin, confirming that part of Mr McAnespie's breastbone had been retained but was disposed of, Dr Lyness also confirmed the existence of "notes and records that the State Pathologist holds in relation to Aidan McAnespie".

Vincent McAnespie said information still being held about his late brother should be released immediately.

He added: "It is incredibly hard to accept that such an important piece of evidence was just disposed of. We want to get to the truth of what happened to Aidan and we will try all avenues so we can get that.

"We knew the soldier who pulled the trigger was doing what he was told to do - we want to know who gave that order. We also want to know who gave the authority for the post-mortem in Craigavon and who gave the authority to retain the part of Aidan's breastbone that had the bullet hole.

"We also want to know who gave the order to dispose of it; there are people in authority that have the answers we need."

The Coroner's Office did not respond to requests for comment.

Belfast Telegraph