Prosecution of soldier over 1988 death adjourned due to 'circumstances beyond control'

David Jonathan Holden.

The prosecution of a soldier over the death of a man in Northern Ireland in 1988 has been adjourned due to "circumstances beyond everybody's control".

David Jonathan Holden, 52, is on trial at Belfast Crown Court accused of the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie in February 1988.

He denies the offence.

Mr McAnespie, 23, was killed in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, moments after walking through a border security checkpoint.

He was on his way to a local Gaelic Athletic Association club when he was shot in the back.

He had been spotted by the soldiers at the checkpoint as "a person of interest" whose photograph was on a montage inside the checkpoint.

The trial started at Belfast Crown Court on Monday.

The court heard on Thursday morning that the prosecuting barrister was unable to be at court due to circumstances beyond everyone's control.

Mr Justice O'Hara described the turn of events as "disappointing for everyone, the defendant and his supporters and equally for the McAnespie family and their supporters".

"More generally the aspiration was to finish evidence this week and then get into legal submissions next week and that cannot now be achieved," he said.

"We'll make whatever progress we can on tidying up bits and pieces today and then the resumption of the case will be given priority so that as soon as people are available and able to attend court the case will be relisted to complete at the earliest possible date."

Holden is a former Grenadier guardsman from England, whose address on court documents is given as c/o Chancery House, Victoria Street, Belfast.

The case is being heard in a Diplock format, without a jury sitting.

It is proceeding amid the continuing controversy over Government plans to prohibit future Troubles-related prosecutions.

The Holden case is one of a series of high-profile prosecutions of veterans that have been pursued in Northern Ireland in recent years.

Members of the McAnespie family have attended the trial supported by Amnesty International.

Outside the court a number of protesters have staged a demonstration, calling for an end to Troubles prosecutions.

Conservative MP and former veterans minister Johnny Mercer, and Northern Ireland's veterans' commissioner Danny Kinahan, also attended the trial.