Man appears in court over prison officer murder

A man has appeared in court accused of obtaining a car which was later used in the killing of a prison officer in the North.

Man appears in court over prison officer murder

A man has appeared in court accused of obtaining a car which was later used in the killing of a prison officer in the North.

Damien Joseph McLaughlin, 36, was linked to the Toyota Camry, which was moved from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland before it was used in the murder of David Black, 52.

Father-of-two Mr Black, from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, was shot on a motorway in Co Armagh after a Toyota pulled alongside him at high speed while he drove to work at the high security Maghaberry Prison.

The defendant was accused of obtaining the attack car at Carrigallen, Co Leitrim, and bringing it to Northern Ireland.

An investigating officer told Lisburn Magistrates’ Court: “We believe we will be able to prove that the car was moved from there shortly after Mr McLaughlin was in Carrigallen and it was taken straight to Northern Ireland towards the Craigavon area.”

Mr Black was shot dead close to Craigavon on the M1 motorway on November 1. Dissident republicans claimed responsibility.

He was the first prison officer killed in Northern Ireland for 20 years.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland officer today said evidence to support a terrorism charge was with Gardaí and would be sent to the North as soon as possible.

He said the Toyota was identified burned out after the killing in Craigavon.

“Gardaí were able to trace the registration, they have conducted very extensive inquiries and been able to inform us where it moved and approximately what times it moved,” he said.

“The car was moved out of Carrigallen late on the 31st of October and on that date we believe we have CCTV provided by the Garda that places Mr McLaughlin in Carrigallen.

“Mr McLaughlin has never given an explanation.”

He said it was not believed the suspect, from Kilmascally Road in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, frequented that area but added he was not at liberty to go into detail on the evidence.

He said investigations were at an early stage and police needed to encourage more witnesses to come forward north and south of the Irish border.

“If too much is said along that line it will be a serious deterrent to other people in assisting police,” he added.

“The evidence has been fully discussed with the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) and the PPS were satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to substantiate a charge.

“The Garda Siochana believe that they have evidence sufficient and that will come to us in due course.”

The accused, dressed in a white top and jeans and flanked by prison officers, stood throughout the brief hearing, as half a dozen police officers kept watch in the crowded courtroom.

Mr Black’s young son Kyle, who spoke movingly at his father’s funeral last month, looked on, while a crowd of supporters in the public gallery applauded the accused as he was led away.

McLaughlin’s lawyer Peter Corrigan said the evidence should have been before the court before the suspect was charged.

“There is no evidence in existence against the defendant linking him to the car, no relevant and visible evidence,” he said.

“There is an expectation at some future date that there might be evidence.”

District Judge Rosemary Watters said she was prepared to accept the Garda will bring the evidence forward in due course and it will be before a court in Northern Ireland.

“I have to rely on what I am told and rely on a belief that that evidence when it is before a court will convict or at least there is a prima facie case against the defendant.”

She remanded him in custody to reappear via video-link at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court on January 4.

Meanwhile, a 44-year-old man detained in the Republic of Ireland over the prison officer’s murder is due before the Special Criminal Court in Dublin this afternoon.

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