"I AM JOHN PAT CUNNINGHAM"
London, 16th Sept, 11am | 14 September 2017
This weekend Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans are organising a protest in London entitled "I AM DENNIS HUTCHINGS". (11am at Horse Guard Parade London). Hutchings is currently being prosecuted for the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham, a vulnerable adult, in Benburb in 1974.(Full case details below)
Friends of John Pat, including PFC members, will be in London holding a vigil at Horse Guard Parade at the same time.(11am) They have asked us to let those who wish to come along and show their support for the family of John Pat. You can download the poster attached and bring it along.
If you can't make it to London, other events are being held across the north in solidarity with the Cunningham family. Please come and show your support.
DERRY: 12 noon Free Derry Corner
BELFAST: 12 noon, Former site of the Andersonstown Barracks - organised along with our friends at RFJ
LONDON; 11am Horse Guard Parade
STRABANE: 12 noon new Footbridge @ Meeting House St
ARMAGH, Carrickaness Rd near Benburb (scene of shooting) 1pm
If you are organising a event at another location, please let us know and we can publicise it.
You can post images of you holding the "I AM JOHN PAT CUNNINGHAM" posters on Twitter using #IAMJOHNPATCUNNINGHAM. You can do this from anywhere in the world, you do not need to attend an event to do this.
Please bring one of these posters & only these posters. Out of respect for the family we want to ensure that no party political or other organisational posters are used.
SUMMARY: John Pat was shot and killed by British soldiers (Life Guard Regiment) in fields near his home at Benburb, County Armagh, on Saturday 15 June 1974 at approx. 11.50 am. He was unarmed. In April 2015 Dennis Hutching was charged with the attempted murder of John Pat.
BACKGROUND: John Pat was 27-years-old and would be described today as a vulnerable adult. He had a learning disability and also had a fear of men in uniforms.
A year before the shooting, his GP came upon John Pat taking refuge in a ditch from British soldiers who were poised to arrest him. The GP made representations to the British Army and the RUC locally at the time about John Pat’s fear of men in uniforms.
John Pat had no formal work but spent most of his time helping at local farms and the Servite Priory in Benburb.
THE KILLING: On the morning of 15 June 1974, John Pat was returning from the Priory along a country lane (Carrickaness Road). There are no independent witnesses to what happened next.
According to statements made by some of the British soldiers involved, ten of them were travelling in two land-rovers when some spotted John Pat standing on the left hand side of the road and looking towards a hedge. All 10 soldiers got out of their vehicles.
John Pat ran across the road and into a field, pursued by soldiers A, B and E. The remaining seven soldiers claim they either remained beside their vehicles or took up covering positions and did not see what happened next.
Soldiers A and E jumped over a gate and ran into the field, while soldier B took up a position at a second gateway into the same field. All three soldiers claim they shouted at John Pat to stop and then opened fire.
John Pat was hit by either 2 or 3 bullets (all the shots passed through his body and it was therefore impossible to determine which of the two soldiers fired the fatal shot).
THE INTERVIEWS: Soldier K, a military doctor, pronounced John Pat dead at 12.15 pm. No firearms were found with John Pat or in the area.
A local priest was initially prevented from giving John Pat the last rites; he however told the soldiers “If you want to stop me, you will have to shoot me”.
Seven of the 10 soldiers in the patrol gave statements to the Special Investigation Branch (SIB: the investigatory branch of the Royal Military Police) the following day, Sunday 16 June.
Soldier L never gave a statement. Soldiers A and B were questioned under caution by two members of the RUC on Tuesday 18 June.
Soldier A said: “I’ve taken legal advice on the matter and I’ve been advised not to make a statement at this time”. He was then asked six questions, declining to answer any of them except to say he was in charge of the patrol and that he had called on John Pat to stop.
Soldier B also said “I’ve taken legal advice and I don’t wish to make a statement at this time”. He was asked a further four questions and declined to answer them. The interview lasted five minutes.
These two interviews are the only known accounts that soldiers A and B have ever given about John Pat’s death. In total they cannot have lasted more than 10 minutes.
Three months later (September 1974) the RUC submitted a report to the DPP who decided not to bring criminal charges against the soldiers involved.
In October 1975 an SIB officer in Lisburn asked for statements to be taken from soldiers A and B in order to answer a political question. (This remains unexplained.)
In November 1975 the SIB officer was informed that the soldiers would not be giving statements on receipt of advice given by solicitors in Northern Ireland.
The regimental log of the Life Guard Regiment described John Pat as the ‘village idiot’.