A Northern Ireland court Friday found David Holden, a former British soldier, guilty of the 1988 manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie. McAnespie was shot in the back at an army border checkpoint in County Tyrone, Ireland. Holden is the first British army veteran to be convicted of a historical offense since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of conflict during the Troubles.
At trial, Justice John O’Hara said he was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Holden was guilty. He found Holden pointed a multi-purpose machine gun at McAnespie and pulled the trigger, while assuming the gun was not cocked. O’Hara found that Holden should not have assumed as much. The judge also rejected what he had found to be a “deliberately false account” given by Holden about what happened. Ultimately, the judge found:
The defendant should have appreciated at the moment he pulled the trigger that if the gun was cocked deadly consequences might follow. That is not something which is only apparent with hindsight.
Holden, who was 18 at the time and serving with the Grenadier Guards, admitted to firing the shot which killed McAnespie, but said he discharged the weapon by accident. He claimed the gun, which had been cocked, had gone off because his hands were wet. McAnespie was 23 years old and was on his way to a local Gaelic Football club when he was shot, having just walked through a border security checkpoint.