British soldier to challenge conviction over killing of Aidan McAnespie at checkpoint
David Holden admitted firing the fatal shot, but said the gun was discharged by accident because his hands were wet
A veteran soldier convicted of the manslaughter of an unarmed man at an army checkpoint in Northern Ireland 35 years ago is mounting a legal bid to clear his name.
David Holden received a suspended sentence last month for the killing of 23-year-old Aidan McAnespie.
He was the first former member of the armed forces to be found guilty of a Troubles-era offence since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
At the Court of Appeal today, lawyers for the 53-year-old veteran confirmed his intention to challenge the conviction.
Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan agreed to set aside two days to hear the case in either October or November.
Mr McAnespie was killed in February 1988 as he walked through a security checkpoint in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone. He had been on his way to a local Gaelic Athletic Association club when he was shot in the back.
Holden was 18 at the time and serving with the Grenadier Guards.
The Englishman admitted firing the fatal shot, but said the gun was discharged by accident because his hands were wet.
However, following a non-jury trial last year, Mr Justice O’Hara found him guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.
The judge held that Holden wrongly assumed his machine gun was not cocked when he pointed it at Mr McAnespie and pulled the trigger.
He also highlighted the defendant’s age at the time of the time of the shooting and that there was no intent to kill.
The fact that the gun was cocked and ready to fire was the fault of others, according to Mr Justice O’Hara.
Holden was sentenced to three years, suspended for a period of three years.
The ex-soldier’s barrister, Frank O’Donoghue KC, disclosed today that he is not appealing the term imposed.
Instead, the challenge is solely focused on attempting to have the guilty verdict overturned.
With his client’s liberty not an issue, Mr O’Donoghue told the court he was not seeking an urgent hearing.
Dame Siobhan offered alternative dates in the autumn after stressing the need to deal with the appeal.
She pointed out: “It seems quite far away, and it’s not my making to postpone the case.”
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