A British soldier is to face prosecution for manslaughter over the death of Aidan McAnespie in 1988, Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service has said.

The 48-year-old former Grenadier Guardsman is to be charged with gross negligence manslaughter.

Mr McAnespie, 23, was shot dead in February 1988 on the Tyrone-Monaghan border. 

He was hit in the back by one of three bullets fired from a machine gun at a British Army checkpoint. 

He had just walked through the checkpoint at Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone on his way to Aghaloo GAA grounds to play a football match.

A British soldier said at the time he had accidentally discharged the fatal shot when moving the weapon with wet hands. 

Forensic evidence indicated that the fatal shot was one of three that had ricocheted off the road, two metres behind Mr McAnespie.

The morning after the incident, deputy garda commissioner Eugene Crowley was appointed by the government to carry out an investigation.

The results of his work were given to the then minister for justice, Gerry Collins, two months later but the findings have never been published.

Mr McAnespie's family have continued to lobby the administrations on both sides of the border to revisit the case.

In October 2008, a review by the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team concluded that the British soldier's account of what happened was the least likely version of what took place.

It also said that the gun used required 9lbs of pressure to pull the trigger.

The following year, the then secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Shaun Woodward, expressed "deep regret" for what happened.

The PPS in Belfast initiated a review of the case in 2016 and it was that work that led to today's announcement.

A PPS spokeswoman said: "Following careful consideration of all the evidence currently available in the case, and having received advice from senior counsel, it has been decided to prosecute a former soldier for the offence of gross negligence manslaughter.

"That evidence includes further expert evidence in relation to the circumstances in which the general purpose machine gun was discharged, thereby resulting in the ricochet shot which killed Mr McAnespie."

It is understood the former soldier was informed of the prosecution decision by email this morning. Formal papers will be served on his legal representatives in the coming weeks.

The McAnespie family has, in recent months, again asked Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to publish the findings of the report carried out by Mr Crowley. 

It is understood that the minister intends to meet the family in the coming weeks.

New evidence, including a fresh ballistics report carried out by two independent experts, will form part of the prosecution case.

Additional reporting PA