Northern Ireland news

Despite Karen Bradley's claims that soldier killings are 'not crimes' prosecutions have been brought

Former soldier Dennis Hutchings

DESPITE Karen Bradley's claims that killings at the hands of the security forces were "not crimes", prosecutions have been brought in a small number of fatal shootings involving British soldiers.

Legal proceedings are also active in several high-profile cases.

A file is currently under consideration with the Public Prosecution Service about whether soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday, in which 14 demonstrators were shot and killed in 1972, will be charged with murder and other offences. A decision is expected next week.


Another case ongoing is that of former British soldier Dennis Hutchings (77), who has been charged with attempted murder linked to the fatal shooting of John-Pat Cunningham, (27) in Co Tyrone in 1974.

He was killed as he ran away from a military patrol in Benburb. It was later revealed he was an innocent bystander and had the mental age of a child.

John Pat Cunningham was 27 at the time of his death

Meanwhile lawyers acting for a former British soldier accused of the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie say they plan to travel to England to speak with him.

Ex-Grenadier Guardsman David Jonathan Holden (49) has been charged with gross negligence manslaughter. He did not appear for a hearing in Dungannon last month.

Mr McAnespie was shot dead close to a checkpoint on the border at Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone in 1988 as he made his way to Aghaloo GAC's grounds.

Aidan McAnespie was shot dead close to a checkpoint on the border at Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone in February 1988

Two former paratroopers have also been accused of shooting an Official IRA man in the Markets area of Belfast in 1972.

The pair, known only as Soldier A and Soldier C, were last year granted leave to seek a judicial review of a decision to have their case heard by a judge sitting alone. The defendants, now aged in their sixties, have been given anonymity.

Prosecutions could also be brought against members of MI5 and an undercover military unit after an investigation into allegations of murder by the British Army double agent Stakeknife.


Jon Boutcher, chief constable of Bedfordshire Police, is understood to have questioned former army personnel as part of Operation Kenova which is investigating allegations of serious criminal activity during The Troubles.

Throughout the Troubles a number of British soldiers have been convicted of shootings while on duty.

In 1972, Michael Naan (31) and Andrew Murray (23) were killed in what became known as 'The Pitchfork Murders'. They were stabbed to death by members of a British army foot patrol near Newtownbutler.

It was six years later before it emerged that members of the 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were responsible for the killings which were described by a pathologist at the time as "frenzied".

Several members of the patrol were subsequently convicted for their parts in the killings.

On January 30 1972, 13 people taking part in a civil rights demonstration in Derry. Picture by Pacemaker

Thomas 'Kidso' Reilly (22) was killed by Private Ian Thain, on Springfield Road on August 9 1983. He served just over two years in a military prison before being accepted back into the army.

Scots guardsmen, Mark Wright and James Fisher, were convicted of killing 18-year-old Peter McBride in 1992. Following a high-profile campaign they were eventually released in September 1998, and went back into their regiment.

Lee Clegg served four years in prison for the murder of teenager Karen Reilly (18) in 1990. He was cleared at a retrial in 1998 and returned to the Parachute regiment and was later deployed to Afghanistan.

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