Prison officer murder case dropped

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Charges have been dropped against a Co Armagh man who had been accused of murdering a prison officer.

Sean McVeigh, 33, from Lurgan had always denied any involvement in the motorway shooting of David Black in 2012.

A lawyer for the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) told Craigavon Magistrates’ Court that the murder charge and a count of possession of an assault rifle with the intent to endanger life were being dropped.

Mr McVeigh is to sue the PPS and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for the time he has spent in custody.

When he was first arrested and charged in February, Mr McVeigh’s lawyers had requested that the PPS review the case as they insisted there was no evidence against their client.

Long serving prison officer Mr Black, 52, was shot dead as he drove to work along the M1 motorway in Co Armagh.

He was the 31st prison warder to be killed in Northern Ireland, but the first murdered in almost 20 years.

The car used in the attack was found burned out nearby in Lurgan.

The lawyer from the PPS said: “The charges in this matter are to be withdrawn.

“No prosecution has been directed.”

District judge Mervyn Bates told Mr McVeigh, who stood in the dock in jeans and a white striped polo shirt, that he was free to go.

“As far as this matter is concerned you may be released from custody,” he said.

“This case is now at an end.”

Supporters of Mr McVeigh erupted into loud cheers at that point, prompting the judge to order them from the court.

Mr McVeigh smiled and gave a thumbs-up sign as he exited toward the holding cells with a custody officer.

Mr McVeigh made no public comment as he emerged from court flanked by supporters 25 minutes after this morning’s brief hearing.