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Prospect of Troubles murder bid trial making final years hell, says ex-soldier Dennis Hutchings

Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings (Gareth Fuller/PA)

A former soldier facing trial over the fatal shooting of a man over four decades ago has spoken of how his final years are bing made a "total hell".

Dennis Hutchings insists he is innocent saying his job in Northern Ireland was to protect people.

The 78-year-old former staff sergeant in the Life Guards is facing trial over the killing of John Patrick Cunningham in 1974. The 27-year-who had learning difficulties, was shot and killed as he ran away from an Army patrol near Benburb in Co Armagh.

Mr Hutchings insists he fired into the air in a bid to get Mr Cunningham to stop. Prosecutors have admitted another soldier now deceased may have fired the fatal shot.

"It’s a bloody, utter disgrace they are still pursuing me," the veteran told the Daily Telegraph.

"It’s disgusting. This is making my final years a total hell."

Mr Hutchings who served almost 30 years in the Army, will be tried in Northern Ireland on a charge of attempted murder.

“There is no forensic evidence to show what killed John Pat Cunningham. Otherwise I would be charged with murder," he said.

“I didn’t have any intention of killing Cunningham. I just wanted to get him to stop. I fired air shots. All I wanted to do was stop him and ask him why he was running. Our job was to protect people.”

The Cornwall man gave the Daily Telegraph an overview of his current health. He requires dialysis three times a week lasting over five hours each time. His trial in Belfast will have to be interrupted every other say so that he can receive hospital treatment.

“The doctors say my life expectancy isn’t good. My consultant thinks I should be dead anyway by now," he added.

Earlier this month, the former soldier lost a court challenge to have his trial heard by a jury.

Prosecutors directed Hutchings’ trial be heard by a judge alone after concluding that there was “a risk that the administration of justice might be impaired if the trial were to be conducted with a jury”.

Hutchings, from Cawsand in Cornwall, appealed against the decision, but the Supreme Court dismissed his case.

He faced inquiries in the aftermath of the killing and was cleared of any wrongdoing at the time and told he would face not further action.

But following his arrest in 2015 and three days of questioning he was charged with attempted murder.

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