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Trial of former British soldier for Troubles killing is adjourned after he's taken to hospital

Dennis Hutchings is charged with the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham in Co Tyrone in 1974.

Dennis Hutchings arriving at Laganside Courts.
Dennis Hutchings arriving at Laganside Courts.
Image: PA Images

THE TRIAL OF a former British Army soldier charged with attempted murder over a Troubles-era shooting has been adjourned after the defendant was taken to hospital due to ill health.

A defence barrister informed Belfast Crown Court of the development in the case involving Dennis Hutchings as proceedings in the non-jury trial were due to commence on Friday morning.

James Lewis QC told judge Mr Justice O’Hara that Hutchings, 80, had been unable to attend court.

“I regret to say he’s been taken unwell and is presently in hospital,” he said.

“And in those circumstances, my lord, I don’t think it’s possible for us to proceed today.”

The trial has been ongoing for two weeks and the judge had been due to hear further evidence from a police witness on Friday.

Hutchings is suffering from kidney disease and the court has been sitting only three days a week to enable him to undergo dialysis treatment between hearings.

He is charged with the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham in Co Tyrone in 1974.

The former member of the Life Guards regiment from Cawsand in Cornwall also denies a count of attempted grievous bodily harm with intent.

Cunningham, 27, was shot dead as he ran away from an army patrol across a field near Benburb. People who knew him said he had the mental age of a child and was known to have a deep fear of soldiers.

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Prosecution barrister Charles McCreanor QC said an adjournment was unavoidable.

“It would seem the court has absolutely no option whatsoever but to grant the adjournment,” he said.

Justice O’Hara adjourned proceedings until Monday morning.

“This is unfortunate, but I hope very much that for Hutchings’ sake and for everybody’s sake that he is treated and is fit to attend the trial again on Monday,” said the judge.

“So, I will adjourn until Monday morning and I can be updated on the position then.”

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