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Judge to rule if ex-soldier will face trial over 1988 killing


Shot: Aidan McAnespie

Shot: Aidan McAnespie

Shot: Aidan McAnespie

There was a heavy police presence at Dungannon Magistrates' Court yesterday for the final stage of a hearing into the case of a former soldier accused of shooting a Catholic man dead more than 30 years ago.

Aidan McAnespie (23) was killed as he walked through an army checkpoint in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, having been struck by one of three bullets fired from a machine gun.

Although the hearing challenging the position of the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) is now complete, it will be later this month before a decision is taken over whether former Grenadier Guardsman David Jonathan Holden will be committed for trial for manslaughter.

Fifty-year-old Holden, whose address was given as care of his lawyer's Belfast offices, appeared in court for the second day of a Preliminary Investigation (PI) wearing his regimental blazer, and with many supporters seated in the public gallery of the courtroom.

He is charged with unlawfully killing Mr McAnespie on February 21, 1988, who was on his way to a Gaelic football match.

Seated behind the dock were many family and friends of the deceased, as well as their supporters, including Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew.

The matter was heard by District Judge Amanda Brady over the course of two days, the first of which was back in August.

The content cannot be reported at this time, although the final ruling can be disclosed as it will inform the decision over whether or not Holden will stand trial.

Holden was 18 at the time of the incident.

He now resides in England.

He listened intently to proceedings throughout and did not speak at any stage, save to confirm his identity.

After counsel for both the defence and prosecution concluded submissions, Judge Brady said: "I will take time to consider all evidence and submissions in this matter to establish if there is a case to answer.

"I will give a written ruling in due course."

While no specific date has been set, it is expected the ruling will be delivered later this month.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which continues to hold PIs, with other jurisdictions abolishing them some time ago.

It is the right of the defence to mount a PI in order to examine evidence of some or all PPS witnesses, with is recorded and signed off as statements.

Such hearings require specific court procedures, usually involving setting aside a specific venue.

A District Judge presides and, after hearing all evidence, will issue a ruling on whether or not the accused person is to stand trial.

Belfast Telegraph