Police launch murder investigation into Army shooting of man in 1974

John Pat Cunningham
John Pat Cunningham

John Pat Cunningham, 27, who had the mental age of a child, was running away from an Army patrol across a field when soldiers opened fire.

Mr Cunningham, who had a fear of people in uniform, was shot three times as he fled in Benburb on June 15, 1974.

Detectives from the PSNI's new Legacy Investigations Branch announced today that they have reopened the case.

They said they came to the decision after an "assessment of available evidence".

The scene in Benburb after the shooting 

The family of Mr Cunningham did no welcome the announcement however.

In a statement from the Pat Finucane Centre, acting on behalf of the Cunningham family, a spokesperson said: "The Cunningham family were not informed this appeal was being made today.

“They first heard about it through the media. We have no confidence in the PSNI’s Legacy Investigations Branch which has launched this public appeal.”

Instead, the family have said they would like an independent inquiry into Mr Cunningham's death under the Historical  Investigations Unit which was proposed in the Stormont House Agreement.

DI Neil McGuinness, leading up the murder investigation, said: "We have now reached a point where it is appropriate and necessary to ask for assistance from not only the local community in Benburb, but also from people who may have moved away from the area or are in other parts of the world.

“Firstly, I would like to speak to people who knew John Pat - what sort of a young man he was, his interests, his lifestyle, his concerns.

“Secondly, I want to speak to anyone who has knowledge of any previous encounters or incidents involving John Pat and soldiers. It doesn’t matter what these were or what they amounted to, I just need to know about them.

“Finally, I would like to speak to anyone who was a witness to the fatal shooting itself at Carrickaness, Benburb at 11.50am on Saturday 15 June 1974, who has information about the incident or who engaged with soldiers at the time."

He added: “It is my intention to deploy detectives to the Benburb area to engage with the community and I would encourage anyone who has information to discuss it with my officers.

“I would ask anyone who thinks they can help to contact us on 028 9258 9140 or 07585 228 283.”