27 August 2021 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Michael Fisher A former British soldier will stand trial for the death of Aidan McAnespie at a border checkpoint near Moybridge 33 years ago after an attempt to have the case against him dropped was refused by a judge in Northern Ireland last week. David Jonathan Holden, now aged 51, will appear at Belfast Crown Court next month. He will be formally charged with unlawfully killing Aidan Martin McAnespie from Aughnacloy. Mr Justice O’Hara rejected a legal application made on behalf of Mr Holden to quash the case, and expressed the hope that a trial can take place before Christmas.

Mr McAnespie, who worked at Monaghan Poultry Products and had to pass through the security checkpoint daily, died after being shot in the back from a ricochet bullet as he made his way to a GAA match at the Aghaloo GFC grounds on Sunday 21st February 1988. The 23- year old had just walked past the British Army lookout tower on the Monaghan Road in Aughnacloy when he was shot and killed. Former Grenadier Guardsman David Holden, who was 18 at the time, admitted he fired the fatal shot. He claimed his hands were wet and his finger slipped off the trigger guard of his general purpose machine gun. He was initially charged with manslaughter when he appeared three days later at Cookstown Magistrates Court but in September 1988 the charge was dropped.

In 2014, following requests by the McAnespie family, the case was re-examined by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) and a decision was taken not to prosecute Guardsman Holden. Following an investigation into the shooting by the Historical Enquires Team, the case was referred back to the PPS in 2016 by the North’s Attorney General. On this occasion, a decision was made to prosecute the former soldier on a charge of manslaughter. A ‘no bill’ application was launched by Holden’s defence at Belfast Crown Court on the grounds that the prosecution evidence was not sufficient to put him on trial.

Both Mr Holden and several members of Mr McAnespie’s family attended the hearing remotely, via videolink. As he refused the ‘no bill’ application, Mr Justice O’Hara said that after careful consideration, he was satisfied there was “sufficient evidence….

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