Pair in court over murder of Northern Ireland prison officer David Black


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The Independent Online

Two men have appeared in courts on both sides of the Irish border in connection with the murder of a prison officer in Northern Ireland.

One defendant was accused of obtaining and bringing a car from the Irish Republic which was linked to the shooting dead of David Black, 52, on the M1 motorway in Co Armagh on 1 November.

The second man was separately charged in Dublin with IRA membership.

Dissident republicans claimed responsibility for killing the father-of-two as he drove to work at Maghaberry high security prison, near Lisburn, Co Antrim.

Damien Joseph McLaughlin, 36, was allegedly linked by CCTV evidence and a registration plate trace by Irish police to a Toyota Camry moved north from the Irish Republic, Lisburn Magistrates' Court heard. That happened the day before a car with the same registration mark and make was used in the high speed shooting.

Detectives believe they know where and approximately when the vehicle was moved, it was claimed in court.

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

An investigating officer from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) told Lisburn Magistrates' Court: "We believe we will be able to prove that the car was moved from there (Carigallen) shortly after Mr McLaughlin was in Carrigallen and it was taken straight to Northern Ireland towards the Craigavon area."

Mr Black, from Cookstown,Co Tyrone, was shot dead close to Craigavon on the M1 motorway. He was the first prison officer killed in Northern Ireland for 20 years.

His young son Kyle, who spoke movingly at his funeral last month, looked on from a packed public gallery in the Lisburn courtroom amid a heavy security presence.

The PSNI officer today said evidence to support the terrorism charge was with Irish police and would be sent to Northern Ireland as soon as possible.

He said the Toyota, which was acquired in Dublin, was identified burned out in Craigavon after the killing.

"Gardai 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."

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

"The Garda Siochana believe that they have evidence sufficient and that will come to us in due course," he said.

McLaughlin from Kilmascally Road, Dungannon, Co Tyrone, was dressed in a white top and jeans and flanked by prison officers as he stood throughout the brief hearing while half a dozen police officers kept watch in the crowded courtroom.

A crowd of supporters in the public gallery applauded McLaughlin as he was led away.

His lawyer Peter Corrigan said the evidence should have been before the court before the suspect was charged.

District Judge Rosemary Watters said she was prepared to accept the Garda will bring the evidence forward in due course. She remanded him in custody to reappear via video-link at Craigavon Magistrates' Court, Co.Armagh on 4 January.

Meanwhile at Dublin's non-jury Special Criminal Court Vincent Banks, 44, from the Smithfield Gate apartments in the city was charged with IRA membership on 18 December. He was also accused of withholding information since 10 October relating to Mr Black's murder.

Detective Sergeant Marilyn Brosnan told the Dublin court that when Banks was charged at Ballymun Garda station in Dublin this morning he replied: "Not at this time."

When he was later handed a copy of the charge sheet in the courts complex, he said: "I don't believe so."

Mr Justice Paul Butler remanded Banks in custody until tomorrow when a bail application will be heard.

A 31-year-old woman arrested with Banks in Dublin has been released without charge.