A former British soldier has died while on trial for the attempted murder of a man in Co Tyrone almost 50 years ago.

Dennis Hutchings, 80, from Cornwall had been on trial in Belfast charged in connection with the killing of John Pat Cunningham in Benburb, Co Tyrone in 1974.

Mr Cunningham, who had learning difficulties, was shot in the back as he ran away from an army patrol on the outskirts of the village.

The trial had heard he was scared of the military and would try to hide if he met them.

The former soldier had been in charge of the patrol which was involved in the shooting and had fired a number of rounds from his rifle.

He had been due to appear in court again Monday morning but the judge was told he had contracted Covid-19 and had to self-isolate in his Belfast hotel room.

The case was adjourned for three weeks.

It later emerged that he had taken seriously ill in the afternoon and was transferred by ambulance to a Belfast hospital where he died.

Mr Hutchings had a number of serious illnesses and was receiving treatment for kidney disease and a serious heart condition.

His trial was only running three days a week to account for his underlying health conditions and requirement for treatment.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said Mr Hutchings should never have been brought to trial, "not least because of his health, but also a lack of compelling new evidence.

"There are serious questions to answer here," he tweeted.

Northern Ireland's Veterans' Commissioner said he was very sad to hear of Dennis Hutching's death.

Danny Kinahan said the case showed the problem with Troubles legacy proceedings, too many of which he claimed had a focus on the actions of soldiers

"It has to be recognised that we need a fair, balanced and proportionate system that has been promised," he added.