Belfast Telegraph

Former soldier pleads not guilty over 1974 shooting of vulnerable man in Co Armagh

Accused: Dennis Hutchings
Accused: Dennis Hutchings

By Ashleigh McDonald

An ex-soldier accused of a Troubles-related shooting over four decades ago has formally entered a not guilty plea.

Dennis Hutchings was excused from attending Belfast Crown Court in person for yesterday's arraignment due to his ill health.

Instead, the 78-year old appeared via videolink from Plymouth Crown Court.

Dressed in a suit and with medals pinned to his chest, the former member of the Life Guards regiment was charged with two offences arising from the death of John Patrick Cunningham.

The vulnerable 27-year-old was fatally shot in the back as he ran away from an army patrol near Benburb in Co Armagh on June 15, 1974.

Hutchings, from Cawsand in Cornwall, was charged with attempting to murder Mr Cunningham and of attempting to cause him grievous bodily harm with intent.

When he was asked how he pleaded to the attempted murder charge, Hutchings replied "not guilty."

When the charge of attempted GBH with intent was put to him, the former soldier again replied "not guilty."

The pensioner has made the case it was never his intention to kill or injure Mr Cunningham, but rather he was firing warning shots to get him to stop.

After the pleas were entered by Hutchings, Mr Justice Colton said he had already fixed a date for hearing and the trial would commence on March 9.

The case is set to be reviewed at the start of November.

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