Prosecutors to review Aidan McAnespie border killing case

The funeral procession of Aidan McAnespie in 1988
The funeral procession of Aidan McAnespie in 1988

THE decision not to prosecute a soldier in the notorious British army killing of Aidan McAnespie is to be re-examined as part of a review of the case.

The 23-year-old was shot seconds after walking through a British army checkpoint on his way to GAA grounds near Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone in 1988.

Manslaughter charges brought against the soldier involved, Grenadier Guardsman David Jonathan Holden, were dropped in 1990.

He was later fined for negligent discharge of his weapon and allowed to return to duty. In 1990 he was given a medical discharge from the army.

The decision to review the case was taken after it was referred to Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory by Attorney General John Larkin, who was considering a request by the family for a fresh inquest.

It is understood the PPS review of the file, which includes the decision not to prosecute, will consider independent forensic evidence and a 2008 Historical Enquiries Team report.

The British army claimed that three shots were fired from inside a sanger at the checkpoint after a general purpose machine gun (GPMG) Holden was moving slipped from his hands, which were said to be wet at the time.

Mr McAnespie, a Sinn Féin election worker, was struck in back by one of the shots which ricocheted off the road a short distance behind him.

His death as he made his way to Aghaloo GAC's football field caused widespread anger, and a GAA club in Boston was later named in his memory.

Before his death Mr McAnespie complained that he had been constantly harassed and threatened by British soldiers.

The Historical Enquiries Team concluded that that Holden’s explanation was the “least likely version" of events.

It said the fatal shot was fired from a distance of 283 metres and the "chances of it being un-aimed or random seem so remote in the circumstances that they can be virtually disregarded”.

The report also confirmed that 9lb of pressure would have been required to pull the trigger.

“In the final analysis, the HET is of the view that, whatever the truth of the matter in this case, it is unlikely that the GPMG was discharged in the circumstances, or in the manner, described by Guardsman Holden.”

In 2009 the British government said it “deeply regretted” Mr McAnespie’s death.

His brother Sean said on Wednesday night that forensic evidence and the harassment he faced should be important factors in the review.

“Hopefully they will come to the right conclusion,” he said.

“We want to hold the British army to account, no-one is above the law.”

Solicitor Darragh Mackin of KRW Law said it remains the family’s position that Mr McAnespite was "unlawfully and deliberately killed”.

“We now look forward to the review set to take place in respect of the decision not to prosecute Guardsman Holden, and will be engaging with the PPS in the coming weeks.”