Soldier charged over 1974 shooting withdraws holiday bail application

John Pat Cunningham, who was 27, was killed at Benburb on 15 June 1974.
John Pat Cunningham, who was 27, was killed at Benburb on 15 June 1974.

A retired British soldier charged in connection with a 1974 shooting in Northern Ireland has withdrawn his request for court permission to go on holiday.

Dennis Hutchings, 75, had asked for his bail conditions to be varied so he could go on a cruise with his wife and family ahead of a preliminary hearing in March into the case against him.

John Pat Cunningham

John Pat Cunningham

Hutchings, who has a number of health conditions, had been asked to provide medical evidence to a court in Armagh, that the holiday would not be detrimental to his health.

However, the court has been told he no longer wishes to pursue the application because there is not enough time to book the break.

A prosecution lawyer said there were concerns that due to Hutchings’ “plethora of medical conditions” a holiday might “set him back” and therefore delay the preliminary hearing.

Hutchings’ defence lawyer then told the court that he was withdrawing the application.

“It was a rather unfortunate chain of events. Obtaining medical evidence took several weeks.

“Trying to co-ordinate a family holiday in the time left, he hasn’t been able to get something booked that would have him back in time (for the preliminary hearing). We are withdrawing the application,” he said.

Previously the court was told Hutchings’ health was deteriorating and he wanted a chance to go on the holiday with his wife in February.

A district judge had asked for further medical advice before making a decision.

District Judge Harry McKibbin had said if he could be sure the cruise would not affect the defendant’s health to attend committal, he would be “very sympathetic” to amending bail.

Hutchings is accused of the attempted murder of a man with learning difficulties more than 40 years ago.

John-Pat Cunningham, 27, was shot dead by an Army patrol in June 1974.

Hutchings, of New Road, Cawsand, Torpoint in Cornwall, is also facing a charge of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm to Mr Cunningham.

He is due to attend a preliminary investigation in Northern Ireland on March 20.

The case has been adjourned until the preliminary hearing.

Hutchings was not in court for the hearing. He was excused from attending due to his ill health.

Hutchings was charged in connection with the shooting of Mr Cunningham following a fresh investigation into his death in 2013.

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

The government apologised for his death two years ago.

The 2013 investigation was launched after the director of public prosecutions in Northern Ireland requested a fresh examination of the circumstances surrounding the shooting.