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  1. ITV Report

Two former paratroopers to stand trial for murder of Official IRA man

Joe McCann was shot dead in April 15, 1972 in the Markets area of Belfast Photo:

Two former soldiers are due to stand trial next year, accused of murdering an Official IRA man in the city over four decades ago, Belfast Crown Court has heard.

Joe McCann, was shot dead in April 15, 1972 in the Markets area of Belfast.

The two men - who can only be identified as Soldier A and Soldier C - appeared at Belfast Crown Court on Friday where they were due to enter their pleas.

The former paratroopers, who are now both in their 60s, appeared in court from behind a blue curtain and could only been seen by the Judge and clerk of the court.

Both men, with addresses given as Salisbury House in the London Wall area of London, were due to be arraigned - but this was adjourned "in light of other proceedings."

During Friday's brief hearing, Mr Justice Colton was told the "other proceedings" could affect the soldier’s case.

The Judge was also informed that the defence may launch an application to stay proceedings related to Soldiers A and C. Crown prosecutor Sam Magee said a trial date of January 21, 2019 had been set aside to hear the case, which is expected to last two to three weeks.

Mr Justice Colton agreed to adjourn the arraignment, and said he would review the matter on June 1.

He added: "when we will hopefully be in a position to proceed with the arraignment.”

The Judge also renewed a reporting restriction, under the Contempt of Court Act, which grants the two soldiers anonymity.

While a police investigation conducted at the time resulted in no-one being prosecuted, in 2013 a report by the now-defunct Historical Enquiries Team concluded his killing was unjustified, and three years later, following a case review, the Public Prosecution Service brought the murder charges.

At last month's preliminary hearing it was said the ex-soldiers, granted anonymity amid fears that identification could put their lives at risk, are surviving members of the army patrol involved in the shooting.

A third member of the unit has since died.