Aidan McAnespie

No jail time for British soldier who killed Aidan McEnespie

A former British soldier who was found guilty of the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie has avoided jail after receiving a fully suspended sentence.

Mr McAnespie’s family said that they were disappointed that, in their view, the truth had not come out in the court.

His brother Seán told reporters outside the court that it was very difficult to be in the court today. He said that his brother had been the victim, but that the only remorse the former soldier had was for himself.

“There was no remorse, only for himself and what he went through: no word about Aidan over these last 35 years,” he said.

He said the family had been dragged through the courts for 35 years, and that they “weren’t looking for a pound of flesh, but truth and justice.”


Aidan McAnespie was shot in the back in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, on his way to a Gaelic football match. The 23-year-old was walking through a border security checkpoint.

David Holden, who was serving with the Grenadier Guards at the time, admitted that he had fired the shot which killed Mr McAnespie, but said he had discharged his  weapon by mistake as his hands were wet.

At his trial in the Belfast Crown Court last year, he denied the charge of gross negligent manslaughter. However, Mr Justice O’Hara said that he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Holden was guilty.

Furthermore, the judge ruled, the former soldier had given “a dishonest explanation’ of what had happened to the police and the court – and he noted that Holden had admitted to previously checking Mr McAnespie’s car registration and identifying him as a “person of interest” to the security forces.

Judge O’Hara said Holden had pointed a machine gun at Mr McAnespie and pulled the trigger, while assuming the gun was not cocked, but that such an assumption was not entitled to be made.

He told Belfast Crown Court: “That assumption should not have been made.”

At the sentencing hearing today the  judge said: “In his evidence during the trial, the defendant did not take the opportunity to express remorse.

“He could have done so, even in the context of contesting the case. That would have been helpful.”

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