On-the-run terror suspect Damien McLaughlin, accused of helping to kill prison officer David Black, has been arrested in the Republic of Ireland.
McLaughlin was arrested by An Garda Siochana today under a European Arrest Warrant as part of what the PSNI called “a joint intelligence-led operation”.
He is due to appear in Dublin’s Central Criminal Court tomorrow after having been on-the-run for months.
Victims’ groups and political figures expressed disgust and outrage when it first emerged the PSNI did not know his whereabouts.
News of the 40-year-old’s disappearance first emerged early in January, at which time it had already been seven weeks since he had last been seen by police.
The terror suspect had had his bail conditions relaxed, including the removal of an electronic monitoring tag.
Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray, from PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch, speaking earlier today said: “Since his disappearance police have carried out extensive inquiries regarding Mr McLaughlin’s whereabouts. Throughout this time the PSNI has been liaising closely with An Garda Siochana and today’s arrests demonstrate the benefits of joint working between police forces and other national partner agencies.”
Two further arrests were also made as part of the operation, the PSNI said.
Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray continued: “As part of the operation a 59 year old man was also arrested in Donegal and a 47-year-old woman was arrested in Belfast.
“The 59-year-old man has been taken to Letterkenny police station for questioning and a 47-year-old woman has been taken to Musgrave Serious Crime Suite for questioning.”
David Black’s son, Kyle, said when news frst emerged of McLaughlin’s disappearance that he hopes for a review to be conducted into Northern Ireland’s approach to bail for terror suspects.
The 25-year-old finance worker from Cookstown said McLaughlin’s disappearance “raises questions at the higher level of the judicial system [about] the actual bail conditions that are imposed on individuals that are accused of terrorist-related offences, and how trivial the bail conditions are”.
Police said yesterday that senior detectives had contacted the Black family to update them on developments.
“Detectives involved in the case spoke with Mrs Black to inform her of Damien McLaughlin’s arrest,” Detective Chief Superintendent Murray said.
Much of the outrage expressed over McLaughlin’s disappearance has focussed on the bail conditions imposed.
Kenny Donaldson, from the South East Fermanagh Foundation victims group to which David Black had belonged, said it was evidence that “our criminal justice system is broken”.
DUP MP Gavin Robinson said that a “softly softly approach” to bail for terror suspects “scandalises” justice.
UUP MP Tom Elliott said his disappearance was “disgusting”, adding that allowing suspects who face serious charges to be freed on bail seems to have become “a habit” of the courts.
The Police Ombudsman, meanwhile, announced in January that it is to investigate police over its handling of Damien McLaughlin’s disappearance.
The investigation itself has been ‘called in’ by the ombudsman, itself a relatively rare occurence that means the ombudsman considers the situation so serious that he is investigating it, even though no-one had made a complaint to him about it.
The vast majority of investigations are down to complaints made by members of the public. Last year only 14 of the 3,018 potential cases before the ombudsman were ‘call-ins’.