Northern Ireland

McAnespie family: 'David Holden dragged us through courts'

Aidan McAnespie who was shot dead in February 1988
Aidan McAnespie who was shot dead in February 1988 Aidan McAnespie who was shot dead in February 1988

A BROTHER of Co Tyrone man Aidan McAnespie has said his family was "dragged" through the courts for years by the British soldier convicted of his manslaughter.

Sean McAnespie was speaking after former Grenadier Guardsman David Jonathan Holden (53) was given a three year jail sentence, suspended for the same period, at a Belfast court on Thursday.

Holden was convicted of the offence last November.

Mr McAnespie was shot dead close to a checkpoint at Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone on February 21 1988 as he made his way to Aghaloo GAC's grounds.

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.

He previously added that Holden had given a “deliberately false account” of what happened.

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

Mr McAnespie's brother Sean, speaking after the sentencing, said on Thursday that "nothing takes away from the fact that Mr Holden was found guilty of unlawfully shooting our Aidan".

Speaking outside court he said the suspended sentence did not take away from the conviction.

"He dragged us through the courts for years," he said.

"We lost our father and sister in the duration of that. It was like being stopped at the checkpoint every time we came here."

Mr McAnespie said his family only ever wanted the truth.

"It was like stopping at that checkpoint every time we came here," he said.

"We weren't looking for a pound of flesh.

"We were just looking for truth and justice.

"I wouldn't take away for other families to seek justice.''

Mr McAnespie's cousin, former Tyrone GAA star Brian Gormley, said the hearing "represents the end of a very long journey for the family in terms of pursuing justice".

"Most of these events revolved around one day in February when Aidan was shot going through Aughnacloy checkpoint," he said

"David Holden has been found guilty of the unlawful killing of Aidan McAnespie."

The family's solicitor Darragh Mackin, of Phoenix Law, said the McAnespie family has "already served a life sentence for Mr Holden’s criminal actions".  

"Whilst Mr Holden might today be able to return to his family, as a result of his criminality, the McAnespie family have been deprived of a brother, a son, an uncle, and a best friend," he added.