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Threat assessment to be examined as part of attempts to secure anonymity for two ex-soldiers charged with murdering Official IRA man Joe McCann in 1972

Joe McCann

A THREAT assessment is to be examined as part of attempts to secure anonymity for two ex-soldiers charged with murdering an Official IRA man in Belfast 45 years ago, a court heard today.

A judge was told the former paratroopers may seek their own expert analysis on the risk to their lives from being named.

The defendants, known only as Soldier A and Soldier C, are facing prosecution for the killing of Joe McCann in April 1972.

McCann, one of the Official IRA's most prominent activists, was shot in disputed circumstances near his home in the city's Markets area.

A police investigation conducted at the time resulted in no-one being prosecuted.

However, in 2013 a report by the now-defunct Historical Enquiries Team concluded the killing was not justified.

Files were then passed to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), which reviewed the case and decided last year that Soldier A and Soldier C should be charged with murder.

They are said to be surviving members of an army patrol involved in the shooting incident. A third member of the unit has since died.

The pair, now in their sixties, are set to mount a legal bid to have proceedings thrown out before trial by contesting assertions that they have a case to answer.

But ahead of that preliminary inquiry their application for anonymity was due to be dealt with at Belfast Magistrates' Court.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall was told an existing threat assessment document has been compiled by police and the Ministry of Defence.

However the case was adjourned until the new year. District Judge Fiona Bagnall listed the case for four days in March to deal with both the anonymity application and preliminary inquiry.

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