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Ex-soldier death Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings on trial over Troubles killing dies with Covid-19

The ex-soldier had denied attempting to murder and cause grievous bodily harm to John Pat Cunningham (27), who was shot in the back

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Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings. Picture: PA

Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings. Picture: PA

Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings. Picture: PA

Former British Army soldier Dennis Hutchings died on Monday evening, after his trial over a fatal Troubles shooting was halted following news that he had contracted Covid-19.

The ex-soldier had denied attempting to murder and cause grievous bodily harm to John Pat Cunningham (27), who was shot in the back as he ran from an Army patrol in a field near Benburb, Co Tyrone, in 1974.

Mr Hutchings’ trial was initially adjourned for three weeks after his defence barrister, James Lewis QC informed Belfast Crown Court that Hutchings’ condition had been confirmed by a PCR test on Saturday.

“I regret Mr Hutchings is not well with regard as one would expect with his other comorbidities of renal failure and cardiac malfunction.

“And we are unable to presently take instructions as he is currently in isolation in his hotel room.”

Its reported the 80-year-old died in Belfast’s Mater hospital on Monday.

Reacting to what he described as “desperately sad news” of Mr Hutchings’ death on Twitter, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hutchings family.

"We have said all along that Dennis should never have been brought to trial again, not least because of his health but also a lack of compelling new evidence.

"There are serious questions to answer here.”

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said: “The needless dragging of an 80-year-old soldier, Dennis Hutchings, through the courts has had a very sad end with the passing of Mr Hutchings this evening.

“The strain on this man was cruel, with him requiring regular dialysis, while being brought to Belfast to face a trial of dubious provenance.

“My thoughts and prayers tonight are with his family and friends who may understandably feel that what he was put through contributed to his decline.”

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