Regret but no apology over army ‘ricochet death’

Author: By Noel McAdam

Formally recognising the ?pain and suffering? of the family of Aidan
McAnespie, it also reaffirmed that he died from a bullet fired by a soldier
which ricocheted off the road. The family of Mr McAnespie, however, said
they viewed the Government statement as an ?official acknowledgement? of the
more detailed facts of his death.

Relatives of the 24-year-old argued the statement amounted to recognition that
the explanation for the killing given by the army was the least likely
version of events.

And they concluded the fact the formal statement included both Secretary of
State Shaun Woodward and Defence Minister Bob Ainsworth was ?highly
significant and positive?.

Mr McAnespie?s niece Una McCabe said today: ?This is a huge step for the
British Government. And just because (Secretary of State) Shaun Woodward has
reiterated it was a ricochet does not mean it was not murder.?

The family now hopes the statement will lead the Irish Government to release
its own report into the killing which has been kept under wraps for two
decades.

?We have gone as far with the British Government as we can, now we hope the
Irish Government will follow step. It is the final piece of the jigsaw,? Una
said.

?The British statement must be taken as a whole. Mr Woodward says he is
confident of the work of the Historical Enquiries Team which concluded the
army?s explanation was the least likely version of events.?

Mr McAnespie was shot dead on February 21, 1988, as he walked through an army
checkpoint at Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone after previously claiming he had been
threatened by security force members. He was shot in the back from a range
of nearly 300 metres.

In their statement today on behalf of the Government, the Northern Ireland
Secretary and the Defence Secretary said they recognised the pain and
suffering of the McAnespie family and went on: ?It is a matter of deep
regret that Aidan was killed by a bullet fired by a soldier which ricocheted
from the road.?

The family described a meeting in the last few days with Mr Woodward, at which
they were accompanied by Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew and Fianna Fail
senator Mary White, as highly emotional.

The meeting at Hillsborough Castle allowed Aidan?s elderly parents, John and
Liz, ?to explain the extensive harassment that Aidan had been subjected to
in the lead-up to his death and the devastating effect of his loss on his
family, friends and community?.

The circumstances of the shooting and the findings of the Historical Enquiries
Team (HET) report were discussed and the family said it explained that the
version of events offered by the army, that a bullet ricocheted off the
ground and then killed Aidan ?because a soldier had wet hands and was
cleaning a gun which accidentally discharged?, was the ?least likely?
explanation according to the HET report. A family statement said: ?Aidan was
fatally wounded by a ricochet bullet.

?Given the findings of the HET report we find it highly significant and
positive that the Minister of Defence has co-signed this public statement
along with the Northern Ireland Secretary.

?For years we have fought for truth and acknowledgement.

?The HET report, in our view, represents the closest that we as a family have
got to the truth of what occurred that day.

?The meeting with Shaun Woodward is the acknowledgement at official level that
was missing.?

* Source: Belfast Telegraph.

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