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Plea for no political messaging at funeral of Dennis Hutchings

By PA News

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Dennis Hutchings, 80, along with Johnny Mercer (left) former British Army officer and MP, arrives at Laganside Courts, Belfast, as the former member of the Life Guards regiment, has pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham in Co Tyrone in 1974. (Peter Morrison/PA)

The family of veteran Dennis Hutchings have appealed for there to be no political messaging as they lay him to rest.

The 80-year-old, from Cawsand in Cornwall, died in Belfast after contracting Covid-19 while he was in the city to face trial over a fatal shooting incident in Co Tyrone in 1974.

His death prompted questions by unionist politicians over the decision to prosecute him almost 50 years later.

A funeral service will take place for Mr Hutchings at St Andrew’s Church in Plymouth on November 11, which is also Remembrance Day.

Rolling Thunder UK motorbikes will accompany the veteran on his journey to the Devon city.

The family will later hold a private event in Cornwall.

They have said all are welcome to attend in Plymouth but they have urged there is no political messaging.

“The family are aware of the great deal of interest from those who supported Dennis in attending his funeral,” they said in a statement.

“The family are grateful for all the incredible support over many years and are looking forward to welcoming as many people as can make it to Plymouth on November 11. All are welcome.

“Flags are permitted, banners are not. The family have specifically requested no political slogans, speeches or banners on the day.”

It is understood that while the Ministry of Defence does not provide regimental pall-bearers for retired personnel, veterans are entitled to a regimental trumpeter at their funeral, and a formal request for Mr Hutchings’ funeral is being processed.

An MoD spokesperson said: “Our sincere condolences go to the family, friends and loved ones of Dennis Hutchings. The MoD supported Mr Hutchings throughout his trial with legal representation and pastoral care, which will continue to be offered to his family.”

Mr Hutchings had pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham.

His case became the focus of attention in recent years as a number of prosecutions were announced against veterans over deaths which took place during Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

His solicitor Philip Barden said he had wanted to clear his name.

He also called for the Government to enact a statute of limitations on Troubles prosecutions in Northern Ireland, and said this should be known as Dennis’s Law.

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