British government apologises for 1974 Tyrone death

Tuesday 19 March 2013 19.50
The British government has apologised for the killing of John Pat Cunningham
The British government has apologised for the killing of John Pat Cunningham

The family of a Co Tyrone man who was killed by British soldiers in 1974 has received an apology from the British government.

Britain said "the death was an absolute tragedy that should not have happened".

John Pat Cunningham was shot by soldiers in a field near Benburb as he ran away from them.

There was medical evidence that Mr Cunningham, who was 27 but had the mental age of a child, had an apprehension towards soldiers and their uniforms.

On a Saturday in June 1974, a British army patrol was in a rural area outside the village. Mr Cunningham saw the jeeps and ran away.

Some of the soldiers pursued him and he was hit by three bullets as he tried to flee. He died from the wounds.

After 39 years, the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team revisited the file.

The letter of apology was signed by Britain's Minister of State for Armed Forces Andrew Robathan.

Charlie Agnew, a nephew of Mr Cunningham, said the family welcomed the apology.

However, he was angry that the soldiers responsible for the shooting did not give an account of their actions and could not be compelled to do so.