Northern Ireland

Family of Aidan McAnespie call for legacy bill to be scrapped

Aidan McAnespie who was killed in February 1988
Aidan McAnespie who was killed in February 1988 Aidan McAnespie who was killed in February 1988

THE family of Aidan McAnespie has called for the controversial legacy bill to be dropped as they prepare for the sentencing of the former soldier who killed him.

The 23-year-old was shot dead close to a checkpoint at Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone in February 1988 as he made his way to Aghaloo GAC's grounds.

In November, former Grenadier Guardsman David Jonathan Holden (53), who had been accused of his manslaughter, was convicted at Belfast Crown Court.

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

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

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

“That assumption should not have been made,” he said.

Former Grenadier Guardsman David Holden (Liam McBurney/PA)
Former Grenadier Guardsman David Holden (Liam McBurney/PA) Former Grenadier Guardsman David Holden (Liam McBurney/PA)

The judge added that Holden had given a “deliberately false account” of what happened.

Holden, who was aged 18 at the time when he shot Mr McAnespie, was originally charged with manslaughter in 1988 but this was later dropped.

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

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 today.

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

The sentencing hearing came as the British government's legacy bill, dubbed the 'Bill of Shame' by some opponents, continues to make its way through the House of Lords.

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Relief for McAnespie family after long awaited verdict

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill includes a de facto amnesty, which many believe is designed to protect British army perpetrators.

Under the plan only inquests which have reached substantive hearing stage a year after it is passed will be allowed while civil cases will also be stopped.

Members of the McAnespie family are expected in Belfast for the sentencing.

Speaking ahead of the hearing Mr McAnespie's brother Sean called for the bill to be shelved.

"After 34 long years of fighting we finally received justice for Aidan," he said.

"Other families should be fit to get the same and the legacy bill should be dropped.

"All we were calling for was the truth, which Holden denied us."

The family's solicitor Darragh Mackin, of Phoenix Law, said: "(This hearing) signifies closure in what has been, almost 35 years, of a hard fought campaign for justice by the McAnespie family.

"This case is the personification as to why there can never be any amnesty for crimes committed.

"Despite the passage of time, justice can be done, and can be seen to be done."

In a letter this week 27 members of the US Congress claimed the draft legislation would “deny justice to thousands of families” and “conceal the truth of the past”.

Last week the UN High Commissioner for Human Right, Volker Turk, said the bill, as it stands, appears to be incompatible with the Britain's international human rights obligations.