Wednesday 17 January 2018

Apology over farm worker shooting

Charlie Agnew, nephew of John Pat Cunningham, 27, with a MOD apology at a press conference in Belfast
Charlie Agnew, nephew of John Pat Cunningham, 27, with a MOD apology at a press conference in Belfast
John Pat Cunningham, 27, who was shot dead by British soldiers in 1974 (Family Handout/PA)

The Government has apologised after the shooting of a disabled farm worker who ran away from soldiers almost 40 years ago in Northern Ireland.

John Pat Cunningham, 27, had a mental age of less than 10 and a great fear of men in uniforms. He was unarmed when gunned down by soldiers from the Life Guard Regiment near his home in Benburb, Co Armagh.

Two soldiers suspected of the killing have refused to give an account.

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET), independent detectives investigating all conflict murders, said there were no grounds for their rearrest and no new lines of inquiry - a view disputed by his family.

Mr Cunningham's nephew Charlie Agnew said: "John Pat may have been disabled but he was a human being with exactly the same rights as anyone else.

"The question must be asked: did the British Army consider John Pat 'disposable'?"

The victim was walking home from the Servite Priory, where he helped out, in June 1974, along the Carrickaness Road when he was approached by a military patrol.

It had been deployed on follow-up operations after a different patrol was involved in a shooting incident with IRA gunmen two days previously. A GP had already made representations to the Army about Mr Cunningham's fear of men in uniform.

Mr Cunningham appeared startled by the soldiers, jumped into a field and began to run for home pursued by two servicemen shouting commands for him to stop. Evidence from another soldier, Soldier E, suggested he believed the man may have been armed, the HET report said.

Two troops then fired five shots and the victim died where he fell. It was not possible to determine who fired the fatal shot. The cause of death was recorded as bullet wound to the trunk, the HET added.

Press Association

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