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A British soldier due to stand trial over a killing while serving in Northern Ireland 43 years ago has dubbed his prosecution “a betrayal”.Dennis Hutchings will stand trial in Belfast over the death of John Pat Cunningham in 1974.Mr Cunningham, 27, who had learning difficulties, was shot in the back as he ran away from an Army patrol near the village of Benburb.His family said they want “some clarification” of what happened.More on this story and other Devon and Cornwall news
He was shot dead in a field in Carrickaness Road as he ran away from soldiers who stopped their Land Rover in the area and followed him.It is alleged Mr Hutchings and another soldier had both fired their guns but it is not known who fired the fatal bullet.
Mr Hutchings, 76, from Cawsand, Cornwall, who is charged with one count of attempted murder and one of attempted GBH said: “They call it Troubles. It was a war zone. “You went out on patrol. You could not say 100% ‘I’ll be coming back after this’.”I think [the prosecution] is an absolute shambles. It just shows how spineless our politicians are. They send you out there to do the job. “They give you the paperwork to tell you how to do it and totally ignore you once it’s finished.”
There were more than 3,200 unsolved killings during the Troubles.In 1975 Mr Hutchings was told there would be no further action over Mr Cunningham’s death.It was announced three years ago that deaths caused by the army were to re-examined as well as all of the other killings during the Northern Ireland Troubles.It follows criticism of a previous police investigation which was disbanded in 2013.Hundreds of killings involving paramilitaries and the security forces during the Troubles are now being re-investigated by the Legacy Branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). The PSNI says it is treating paramilitary cases and those involving the security forces in the same way.
Mr Cunningham’s nephew, Charlie Agnew, said the family had not had an explanation of what happened in more than 40 years.”The impact on the family has been massive. John Pat had a mental illness, he was a vulnerable adult. “It’s weighed very heavily on my mother who is now 83.”Mr Hutchings is expecting to stand trial in Belfast in the new year.
Source: Cornish BBC