Dennis Hutchings, 80, a former member of the Life Guards regiment, has pleaded not guilty to the charge which dates back more than 47 years. John Pat Cunningham, 27, of Co Tyrone was shot dead in 1974 as he ran away from an Army patrol. The trial is set to embarrass Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the middle of the Conservative Party Conference. Earlier this year Mr Johnson announced that the prosecution of soldiers who served in the Troubles is to be outlawed.
But the policy will not pass into law until early next year, too late for Mr Hutchings who has heart failure and fluid on the lungs.
During the course of his trial, arrangements have been made for him to attend a Belfast hospital three times a week for kidney dialysis. His doctors have advised Mr Hutchings not to travel and were prepared to provide him with a medical certificate that would have caused the trial to be postponed indefinitely.
But not only is Mr Hutchings determined to appear in court in Laganside in Belfast, he is also taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights. Last Friday he told the ECHR in Strasbourg that veterans have been subject to discriminatory treatment in breach of the Human Rights Act.
He said: “It’s too late for me but it’s not too late for the Government to do the right thing for all those veterans who served to maintain peace in Northern Ireland and who continue to live in fear of a knock on the door. But if the Government won’t act or listen to the veterans and the British people, then I hope Strasbourg will.”
The Daily Express crusade Betrayal Of Our Veterans has fought for more than three years for ex-troops to be given immunity for actions they took serving their country.
Hundreds of veterans who fear questioning and charges in the wake of heroic service are to be reassured they are protected by law.
But NI paramilitaries will get the same immunity and many ex-servicemen feel the proposal puts them on a par with those terrorists, which they find insulting and unjust.
Matthew Jury, of Mr Hutchings’ solicitors McCue Jury & Partners, said: “The numbers don’t lie. Terrorists are treated better than British Army veterans in Northern Ireland. It is only right that we should now be fighting for those veterans.”
The shots that killed Mr Cunningham are believed to have been fired by another soldier, known only as Soldier B, who has since died. No ballistics evidence exists.
Mr Hutchings said: “This is not just about clearing my name before I die but stopping these trials against guys who were just doing a bloody job.”