Extradition proceedings for David Black accused set for next month

Damien McLaughlin pictured in 2011 outside Maghaberry Prison
Damien McLaughlin pictured in 2011 outside Maghaberry Prison

A man wanted in Northern Ireland in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black is to face extradition proceedings next month, a court has been told.

Damien McLaughlin, 40, of Kilmascally Road near Ardboe, absconded from his bail address in west Belfast last November and went on the run.

The PSNI later admitted that it only became aware of his disappearance when officers called at his bail address the following month and discovered the house to be empty.

McLaughlin’s disappearance only came to light in January this year when a prosecution lawyer asked in court for his bail to be revoked because the authorities did not know where he was.

A massive manhunt was launched for McLaughlin on both sides of the border and police was eventually secured a European Arrest Warrant for him to be arrested on sight.

He was eventually arrested by an armed Gardai response unit on March 2 this year while walking along a street in Ramelton, Co Donegal, en route to Letterkenny.

McLaughlin was later taken to Dublin where he appeared before the Central Criminal Court and was remanded in custody.

He was due to stand trial later this year accused of aiding and abetting the murder of David Black in 2012, possessing articles in connection with terrorism, preparation of acts of terrorism, and belonging to a proscribed organisation.

During a review of the case on Friday at Belfast Crown Court, a prosecution lawyer told Mr Justice Treacy: “Extradition proceedings in Dublin are listed for July 19 this year.

“In the light of that I would suggest that we list this case for review in the first week after the vacation.”

Mr Justice Treacy said the case would be mentioned again on Friday, September 15.

On November 1, 2012, David Black – a 52-year-old father-of-two from Cookstown – was shot at about 7.30am whilst driving his black Audi A4 eastward towards to start work at Maghaberry jail.

Shots were fired from a car at Mr Black’s car close to junction 10 (the Lurgan roundabout).

The car was found burnt out in north Lurgan soon after.

McLaughlin was first arrested on December 20 that year.

He was released on bail for the first time in May 2014, with conditions: reporting to police daily, wearing an electronic tag, observing a night-time curfew, and being banned from contacting another named individual.

These conditions were gradually relaxed between then and the time he absconded.

After McLaughlin’s disappearance became public in January this year, police revealed that by the time his address was search it appeared “to have effectively been cleared out”. Milk that was four weeks out of date was found in the fridge.

Officers said when they checked his other address in Ardboe, and those of family members, this was “of no assistance”.

A court was told that the people who provided sureties for him, namely Mr McLaughlin’s uncles, were also “not able to assist in locating him”.

McLaughlin’s disappearance while on bail provoked a public outcry from David Black’s family who said they “felt let down and hurt by the justice system”.

They were visited by Detective Chief Superintendant Raymond Murray, the officer leading the manhunt.

DCS Murray said he had offered “sincere apologies on behalf of the PSNI for the stress and worry this situation is creating for them” and provided “reassurance of the steps police are taking to locate the whereabouts of Damien McLaughlin”.

The failure by the PSNI to carry out regular bail checks on McLaughlin is currently the subject of a Police Ombudsman investigation.