Military veteran found GUILTY of killing man in Northern Ireland at army checkpoint in 1988 

Military veteran is found GUILTY of killing man who was shot in the back at an army checkpoint in Northern Ireland in 1988

Military veteran David Jonathan Holden has been found guilty of the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie, who was shot in the back at an Army checkpoint in Northern Ireland in 1988.

Mr McAnespie was shot at the Aughnacloy, County Tyrone border checkpoint on February 21, 1988. 

Holden was aged 18 at the time and on his first day of checkpoint duties.

He was manning a general purpose machine gun inside a sangar as Mr McAnespie, 23, was walking through the checkpoint on his way to a GAA match.

During the trial, Holden, now 52, denied the charge and told the court he had fired unintentionally and his finger had slipped on the trigger ‘because they were still wet’ from cleaning duties.

The original signed statement made by Mr Holden in 1988 was read out to the court. It said he ‘did not cock the weapon’ and he wanted to make clear he ‘did not point or aim’ the gun ‘at Aidan McAnespie in jest or with intention of firing at him’.

He had told police: ‘I was surprised when the weapon went off. I regret that Aidan McAnespie is dead and this accident happened and hopefully it will be the last accident of this type.’

The court was told Mr Holden’s statement was taken by a detective chief inspector at the Royal Ulster Constabulary station in Dungannon on February 23, 1988 in the presence of other police officers.

In it, he said: ‘I, Dave Holden, wish to make a statement. I want someone to write down what I say. I’ve been told that I need not say anything unless I wish to do so, and that whatever I say may be given in evidence.

‘On Sunday the 21st of February, 1988 I commenced duty at the PVCP [Permanent Vehicle Checkpoint] on the Monaghan Road at Aughnacloy at 8.30am.’

He said he was to do duty in the north sangar along with another guardsman.

His statement continued: ‘We agreed to change roles every two hours. By this I mean we would change from the top of the sangar to the bottom.

‘The man on the bottom part of the sangar checks the car plates and phones the number through to the Ops Room at Aughnacloy Army base.

‘The soldier in the top part of the sangar does look out from one or more, four, windows. There’s a GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun) mounted at all times in one of the windows.

‘It is mounted on a single pivot which allows the weapon to move from right to left. Because the butt of the gun is heavy, the muzzle always points into the air outside the window.

‘The GPMG is always loaded with a belt of 50 rounds and there are two more belts of 50 rounds lying on the windowsill that the weapon is pointing out of.

‘Although the weapon is loaded, it is always made safe.’

This story is being updated. 

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