A former British soldier has been found guilty of the manslaughter of a Catholic man who was shot dead after walking through a British Army checkpoint in Tyrone in 1988. 

David Holden, 52, was found guilty of the manslaughter of 23-year-old Aidan McAnespie, who was shot in the back near a checkpoint in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, while on his way to a local GAA match in February 1988. 

Holden, who was serving with the Grenadier Guards as an 18-year-old at the time, denied the charge of gross negligent manslaughter during his non-jury trial at Belfast Crown Court. 

He has now become the first former British soldier to be convicted of a historical offense since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. 

Holden claimed the shooting was "accidental", stating that his hands were wet at the time, adding that his finger had only been on the trigger for "seconds". 

He admitted firing three rounds but said he did not know if he hit McAnespie, who was unarmed, because he could no longer see the 23-year-old. 

He confirmed that he had checked McAnespie's car registration and identified him as a "person of interest". 

Defense counsel Frank O'Donoghue QC said Holden's account "could not be disproved", adding that "it was not a lying account". 

Crown counsel Ciaran Murphy QC said in his closing submission that Holden had managed to "strike the very target of his surveillance". 

"The one person he was aware of and in whom he had an interest was Aidan McAnespie," Murphy said. 

Mr. Justice O'Hara said he was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that Holden was guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence, adding that the ex-soldier should have appreciated the consequences of his actions the moment he pulled the trigger. The judge added that Holden gave a "deliberately false account" of what happened. 

Holden will return to Belfast Crown Court in the new year for sentencing. 

Holden's supporters gathered outside the court each day during his trial, which took place amid the UK Government's controversial plans to grant amnesty to those suspected of Troubles-era killings. 

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill would also prohibit future civil cases related to Troubles-era crimes and has been criticized by politicians on both sides of the political divide in Northern Ireland. 

To date, six former British soldiers have been charged with historical offenses during the Troubles, but cases against four soldiers have collapsed, while one soldiers died during his trial.