NI: Former soldier charged with attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham in Benburb shooting

John Pat Cunningham, 27, who had learning difficulties and was estimated to have a mental age of 6, was shot dead by an Army patrol in County Armagh in 1974.

Now, more than 40 years later, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has said that Dennis Hutchings, 74, from New Road, Cawsand, Torpoint in Cornwall, will be prosecuted for the attempted murder of Mr Cunningham.

Mr Hutchings was originally charged by detectives in April. The charge was then subject to review by the PPS, which has now been completed.

The decision to prosecute Mr Hutchings was confirmed at Armagh Magistrates Court yesterday morning.

PPS assistant director Michael Agnew said: “The PPS has carried out a careful examination of all of the available evidence and information in this case.

“We have concluded that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction and that the test for prosecution is met.”

Mr Cunningham, who had the mental age of a child between six and 10, had a fear of men in uniform and was apparently running away from an Army patrol when he was killed close to Benburb, a village on the border between counties Armagh and Tyrone.

A new investigation into Mr Cunningham’s death was launched in 2013 after the director of public prosecutions, Barra McGrory QC, requested a fresh examination of the circumstances the shooting.

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