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Murder investigation started 41 years after Army shooting in Benburb

Murder scene at Carrickaness Road, in 1974.

A murder investigation has been started more than four decades after a 27-year-old man was shot dead by the Army in Benburb.

The PSNI has confirmed this morning (Tuesday), that detectives from its Legacy Investigation Branch were appealing for information about the death of John Pat Cunningham, at Carrickaness Road, in 1974.

Mr Cunningham was shot by members of an Army patrol on Saturday, June 15.

Two years ago the family received an apology from the Ministry of Defence but expressed anger that none of the troops had been disciplined.

Mr Cunningham was seen as vulnerable and had a mental age of between five and 10 years.

The case has now been re-opened and a murder investigation has been started following an assessment of the available evidence.murder scene 2

The officer leading the investigation, Detective Inspector Neil McGuinness, said police have already made a number of enquiries about the shooting and the circumstances surrounding the death.

“We have now reached a point where it is appropriate and necessary to ask for assistance, from not only the local community in Benburb, but also from people who may have moved away from the area or are in other parts of the world, if the investigation is to be fully progressed,” he said.

“I appreciate this happened more than 40 years ago, but I believe there are people in the community today who remember this tragic incident, who knew John Pat and who may have information which would be of assistance to the investigation.

“Our objective is to get to the truth of what happened that Saturday morning so that justice can be served.”

DI McGuinness said he had three particular areas where he believes members of the community may be able to help.

He added: “Firstly, I would like to speak to people who knew John Pat, what sort of a young man he was, his interests, his lifestyle, his concerns.

“Secondly, I want to speak to anyone who has knowledge of any previous encounters or incidents involving John Pat and soldiers. It doesn’t matter what these were or what they amounted to – I just need to know about them.murder scene 3

“Finally, I would like to speak to anyone who was a witness to the fatal shooting itself at Carrickaness, Benburb at 11.50am on Saturday, June 15, 1974, who has information about the incident or who engaged with soldiers at the time.

“It is my intention to deploy detectives to the Benburb area to engage with the community and I would encourage anyone who has information to discuss it with my officers.

“I would ask anyone who thinks they can help to contact us on 028 9258 9140 or 07585 228 283.”

Pictures: The scene at Benburb in June 1974.

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