Former British army soldier convicted of Troubles killing to be sentenced next week

Former British Army Soldier Convicted Of Troubles Killing To Be Sentenced Next Week
Former British soldier David Holden arrives at court in Belfast for a sentence hearing. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
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By David Young and Jonathan McCambridge, PA

A former British army soldier found guilty of killing a man at a checkpoint in Co Tyrone more than 30 years ago is to be sentenced next week.

In November, David Jonathan Holden (53) was convicted of the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie in February 1988.


He was the first British soldier to be found guilty of a historical offence in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement.

Former Grenadier guardsman Holden, who was released on bail pending sentencing, returned to Belfast Crown Court on Friday for the sentence hearing.

David Holden court case – Belfast
Aidan McAnespie was shot close to a checkpoint in Co Tyrone in 1988. Photo: McAnespie family/PA


Before hearing the pleas from both sides, the judge told the court that as “there are a number of issues that I have to consider”, he would not pass sentence on Friday.

The sentence will be given next Thursday, February 2nd, the court heard.

Regardless of what sentence is handed down, the veteran will only serve a maximum of two years in jail under the controversial early release provisions of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.

Mr McAnespie (23) was killed in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, moments after walking through a border security checkpoint.


He was on his way to a local GAA club when he was shot in the back.

Holden had admitted firing the shot which killed Mr McAnespie but had said he had discharged the weapon by accident because his hands were wet.

David Holden court case – Belfast
Former British soldier David Holden arrives at Laganside Courts, Belfast. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA


But trial judge Mr Justice O’Hara said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Holden was guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.

He found that Holden had pointed a machine gun at McAnespie and pulled the trigger, while assuming the gun was not cocked.

Delivering judgment in the non-jury trial, the judge said: “That assumption should not have been made.”

He also said the former soldier had given a “deliberately false account” of what happened.


The judge said: “The question for me is this – just how culpable is the defendant in the circumstances of this case?

“In my judgment he is beyond any reasonable doubt criminally culpable.”

The sentence hearing comes amid ongoing controversy over government plans to deal with Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill proposals provide an effective amnesty for those suspected of killings during the conflict, if they agree to co-operate with a new body, known as the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (Icrir).

The Bill would also prohibit future civil cases and inquests related to Troubles crimes.

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