Ex-soldier who shot dead civilian during Troubles convicted of manslaughter | Northern Ireland

A former soldier who shot and killed a civilian as he walked through a British Army checkpoint in Northern Ireland during the unrest has been found guilty at Belfast Court.

David Jonathan Holden, 53, who was serving with the Grenadier Guards when he shot Aidan McKinsby on February 21, 1988, admitted shooting but said his finger slipped on the trigger.

The manslaughter charges against Holden were dropped two years later, which led to a long and ultimately successful campaign by the McCansby family for a new trial that culminated in the verdict on Friday, 34 years later.

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Aidan McCansby
Aidan McCansby. Photo: PA

The 23-year-old Catholic was on his way home from a Gaelic football match across the Irish border when he passed the checkpoint in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone. He was hit in the back by one of three shots fired from a machine gun that bounced off the road, according to forensic evidence. Died at the scene.

Holden is the first war veteran to be found guilty of a historic offense in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

The ruling came as the UK government pressed ahead with controversial legislation proposing an effective pardon for those accused of killing or maiming people during the Troubles. Critics say it is an attempt to shield military veterans from justice.

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The shooting of McCansey was a high-profile case, with Conservative MPs and other supporters of Holden, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, calling the prosecution an upset.

McCansby’s family said security forces harassed him repeatedly before the shooting and then froze to protect Holden. His hands were wet, Holden said, and his finger slipped on the trigger. He was fined for negligent discharge of his weapon and medically discharged from the Army.

Holden arrives at Laganside Courts in Belfast
Holden arrives at Laganside Courts in Belfast on Friday. Photo: Liam McBurney / Pennsylvania

In 2008, a report by the Historical Investigation Team—an agency tasked with investigating unsolved crimes during the Troubles—said that Soldier’s description of events was the “least likely version” of what happened. In 2009, the British government issued an apology and expressed “deep regret” at McCansby’s death.

Speaking before sentencing, Margo McCansey said her brother’s life had been taken. “We have always believed that the fundamental right of access to the justice system should be available to us and that the full events surrounding Aidan’s death should be presented in an open court to allow for the truth and justice to be met. Our determination to ensure this has been our driving force over the years.”

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She added: “Unfortunately, the years it took us to get to this point have meant that our sister Eilish, our mother Lizzie and most recently our father John are no longer with us and this will make Friday that much more difficult for us as a family. We will be thinking of Aidan and all of them on Friday morning but feel good to know that they are They will be with us in spirit.”

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