Dennis Hutchings: Army veteran dies while in Northern Ireland for killing trial

Army veteran Dennis Hutchings, who was in Northern Ireland on trial over a Troubles shooting, has died.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 10:20 pm
Updated Monday, 18th October 2021, 10:57 pm

The 80-year-old’s trial had been adjourned today for three weeks after the defendant was reported to have contracted Covid-19.

Northern Ireland Veterans Movement said: “It is with deep regret and with the permission of his son John Hutchings that we sadly report that our brave friend Regimental Corporal Major Dennis Hutchings passed away in the Mater hospital this evening.

“We ask that everyone give the Hutchings family space at this time and to respect their privacy while they come to terms with this tragic news. Further details will be posted at a later date. Rest in peace dear friend.”

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Dennis Hutchings was on trial in Belfast

Dennis Hutchings, 80, denied attempting to murder John Pat Cunningham, 27, as he ran from an Army patrol near Benburb, County Tyrone, in 1974.

The non-jury trial has been sitting in Belfast for three days each week to allow Mr Hutchings, a Life Guards veteran, to receive dialysis for kidney disease.

Mr Hutchings, from Cornwall, died in the Mater Hospital in Belfast.

Defence barrister James Lewis QC had informed Belfast Crown Court of the development as proceedings in the non-jury trial were due to begin on Monday.

He told judge Mr Justice O’Hara that Hutchings’ condition had been confirmed by a PCR test on Saturday.

“I regret Mr Hutchings is not well with regard, as one would expect, with his other comorbidities of renal failure and cardiac malfunction.

“And we are unable to presently take instructions as he is currently in isolation in his hotel room.”

Democratic Unionist Party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said it was “desperately sad news”.

On Twitter, he said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hutchings family. We have said all along that Dennis should never have been brought to trial again, not least because of his health but also a lack of compelling new evidence.

“There are serious questions to answer here.”

In a statement, Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister said: “The needless dragging of an 80-year-old soldier, Dennis Hutchings, through the courts has had a very sad end with the passing of Mr Hutchings this evening.

“The strain on this man was cruel, with him requiring regular dialysis, while being brought to Belfast to face a trial of dubious provenance.

“My thoughts and prayers tonight are with his family and friends who may understandably feel that what he was put through contributed to his decline.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said: “The needless dragging of an 80-year-old soldier through the courts has had a very sad end with the passing of Mr Hutchings this evening.”

He added: “My thoughts and prayers tonight are with his family and friends who may understandably feel that what he was put through contributed to his decline.”

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