Veteran spared jail for killing man at Northern Ireland checkpoint

David Holden

David Holden has been given a three-year suspended sentence (Image: PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty)

A former soldier who killed a man at an army checkpoint in Northern Ireland 35 years ago has escaped jail time.

David Holden, now 53, was sentenced to a three-year suspended prison sentence in February 1988 for the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie.

Mr McAnespie, 23, was shot in the back in Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone, shortly after passing through the border security checkpoint, Belfast Crown Court heard.

Former Grenadier Guardsman Holden of England admitted firing the fatal shot but said it was an accident because his hands were wet. Last year he became the first veteran to be convicted of a historic offense since the peace deal in Northern Ireland.

Mr Justice O’Hara, who heard the case without a jury, said he was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Holden was guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence. At yesterday’s sentencing, the judge said Holden “made a dishonest statement to the police and then to the court” and that it “would have been helpful” if he had expressed remorse during the trial.

He said Mr McAnespie’s death had a “devastating impact” on his family.

Aidan McAnespie

Aidan McAnespie was shot in the back in Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone (Image: PA Wire)

Paul Young of the Northern Ireland Veterans Movement, which campaigns against the persecution of soldiers, called the sentence “extremely harsh”.

“If you compare that to the Good Friday Agreement and the deals that were made on terrorists … they would never serve more than two years if they were convicted of any legacy,” he said. Holden’s pursuit is a disgrace, he added.

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Justin Scaccy

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