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Members of the British military act as the bearer party at the funeral of Dennis Hutchings. PA

Military funeral for former British Soldier Dennis Hutchings takes place in Plymouth

Hutchings was on trial for the 1974 fatal shooting of John Pat Cunningham when he died last month.

LAST UPDATE | 11 Nov 2021

THE FUNERAL OF Dennis Hutchings, the retired British soldier and Troubles veteran who died last month while facing trial, has taken place in England today.

The 80-year-old, from Cornwall, died in Belfast after contracting Covid-19.

He was in the city to face trial over a fatal shooting in Co Tyrone in 1974.

Mr Hutchings had pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham, and his solicitor Philip Barden said he had wanted to clear his name.

However a court heard last month that there was “overwhelming evidence” he intended to kill an innocent and vulnerable man who posed no threat.

John Pat Cunningham, who had learning difficulties, was shot dead while running from an army patrol near Benburb.

Locals say 27 year-old John Pat was known for his fear of soldiers.

The case had become the focus of attention in recent years as a number of other prosecutions were announced against British Army veterans over deaths which took place during the troubles.

dennis-hutchings-death Mr Hutchings was trying to clear his name over his service during the Troubles, the trial was told. Peter Morrison / PA Peter Morrison / PA / PA

Funeral details

Hundreds of mourners including politicians, bikers and ex-British army personnel attended the funeral at St Andrew’s Church in Plymouth today.

Flags were permitted but the family had requested no political slogans, speeches or banners on the day.

The service saw dozens of motorbikes from Rolling Thunder UK accompanying the coffin as part of the cortege.

Hundreds of people in military clothing lined a road and applauded and saluted as the coffin went by – before it was carried into the church by military pallbearers to the sounds of The Life Guards Slow March.

dennis-hutchings-funeral Riders from Rolling Thunder UK join the funeral cortege at Dennis Hutchings' funeral. PA PA

Bikers revved and sounded their horns as they arrived close to the church as police blocked off the road.

Military flags were held aloft as the coffin went by and wreaths were laid outside the church.

The coffin was draped in a Union Flag, floral tributes and a military hat.

Among those at the funeral was former UK veterans minister and Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer – who spoke during the service.

Friends and family began to enter St Andrew’s Church at 12pm before the service was opened by Reverend Joe Dent.

A sea of people wearing berets, medals and poppies had waited outside for hours.

Written in the order of service was the message:

“Dennis’s family wish to express their sincere thanks to all those who have sent cards and messages of condolence, and for your presence at the funeral service today.”

Rolling Thunder UK said on its website it is “very proud” to have been asked to organise the escort for the funeral cortege.

Additional reporting from Tom Douglas.