THE family of a West Belfast man who had been sentence to hang have been awarded £350,000 in damages after he was tortured into admitting a murder of a British soldier in 1972.

On Friday, the court ruled that Liam Holden was subjected to water-boarding techniques while in military custody and his treatment led to his confession.

Mr Holden died last September, aged 68.

At the age of 18, Liam Holden was sentenced to hang for the 1972 murder of a British soldier.

He had been arrested under the Special Powers Act and claimed that while in custody, he was coerced into confessing to the killing of Private Frank Bell. 

He claimed that he was physically assaulted by members of the Parachute Regiment while in military custody, subjected to waterboarding, hooded, and then driven to the Glencairn area of Belfast where he claimed the army threatened to shoot him at gunpoint if he did not confess to the murder of the soldier some four weeks earlier. 

Private Frank Bell, 18, of the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment was wounded by a single sniper shot on 17 September 1972 in Ballymurphy. He died three days later in the Royal Victoria Hospital. He was the first member of the Parachute Regiment killed in the North of Ireland. 

Mr Holden was convicted by a jury on the 19 April 1973 and was sentenced to hang. He spent four weeks in the Condemned Man’s cell. The death penalty was later commuted to a life sentence on the 15 May 1973. 


Mr Holden spent 17 years in prison and was subject to life licence restrictions for 23 years until the capital murder conviction was quashed by the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal on the 21 June 2012. 

In a statement, Bronagh Holden (daughter) and Samuel Bowden (son), on behalf of the family said: "We very much welcome the detailed decision by the Court today.

"The Court has found that our father was waterboarded by the British Army in Belfast in 1972.

"The Court also found that he was maliciously prosecuted by the army.

"The Court has today exposed the grotesque act of torture committed by the members of the Paratrooper regiment in Belfast in 1972.

"My father was an innocent man who went to jail for a crime he did not commit for 17 years.

"We wish he was here today with us.  He died on the 15th September 2022.  

"We miss him but salute him – his life and campaign for justice were a triumph of humanity over state injustice."

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has paid tribute to the family for their campaign for truth and justice.  

“For nearly 50 years Liam Holden, right up until his death last year, and his family campaigned to shine a light on his torture, including waterboarding, at the hands of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment.  

“I want to commend Liam's family for their determination and dignity and their continued campaign for truth and justice. 

“Today’s verdict in the courts is further vindication of that campaign.  

“It will give heart to and strengthen the resolve of other campaigns of truth and justice to continue to fight the British government’s attempts to silence them. 

“The court’s ruling shows once again that the British government’s cruel and callous legacy bill should be scrapped.  

“The cover-ups should end.

"British state forces cannot be above the law. 

“The legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House must be implemented in a human rights' compliant manner.  

“All families have a right to truth and justice."