David Black's son: After five years the void at our family's heart remains

On November 1, 2012, a dissident republican gang opened fire on prison officer David Black's car on the M1, murdering him.Here, son Kyle Black speaks of the ongoing anguish his family feels as the fight for justice goes on.

Wednesday, 1st November 2017, 12:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 1:17 am
The Black family in 2012 in Dubai. Wife Yvonne Black, Kyle, daughter Kyra and David

Five years have now passed since dad was brutally murdered.

Five years may seem like a long time to some, however since the first of November 2012, for my family time has stood still; it feels as though time froze on that day.

The pain and heartache remains. There is a void in our lives that can never be filled.

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A picture of murdered prison officer David Black, not previously released by family prior to this date.

Our lives will never be as they once were, but all that we can do is try to rebuild them as best we can with what is now our ‘new normal’.

Those that took dad from us have devastated our lives so much, however we as a family are determined to not let these individuals, with their warped ideologies, ruin our lives any further.

We seek to get though each day as best as we can.

Personally, one of my main drivers in life now is to not let those that have taken so much already take anything further by letting it ruin our lives more than it already has done.

A picture of murdered prison officer David Black, not previously released by family prior to this date.

For me, this would be allowing their objectives to be further achieved.

Rather, we want to use our lives to continue making dad proud each and every day.

We continue to have to deal with the aftermath of dad’s murder, not only in the practical sense of him no longer being with us, but the further impact of the judicial process.

Firstly, there are many people who were involved in the planning and execution of dad’s murder who unfortunately have never been identified and prosecuted accordingly.

That in itself is difficult to come to terms with; to know that these people are able to live their lives as they please after what they have done.

However, for those that have sufficient evidence against them to have resulted in charges being brought, the process of bringing them to trial is proving somewhat drawn out and fraught with challenges at every stage.

We as a family are constantly left helpless and in limbo while the courts adhere to the objections and appeals of the defence for the current accused [Damien McLaughlin, see details about the case below].

It feels at times as if the judicial system views the rights of an individual charged in connection with dad’s murder superior and constantly disregards the rights of my dad and his family left behind.

I deem it necessary to ensure no individual’s human rights be infringed, including those of individuals charged in connection with dad’s murder.

That said, what human rights can be prioritised above the most basic and fundamental one of my dad’s right to life?

There are constant court dates set for reviewing the case, and we as a family build up to these dates with anticipation wondering if this will be the day that finally a decision will be reached and timescales are set for proceeding with a trial so as we can prepare ourselves for this.

How can you piece your life back together when you don’t know when a trial will commence, which may take weeks or months to complete?

From being in court at various hearings in the past we know how difficult this part of the process will be.

The ‘not knowing’ is like a constant cloud hanging over us as we contemplate what is yet to come.

Sometimes we think, what was it all for?

What has been achieved from this apart from leaving behind a trail of hurt and devastation for my family and for those that loved and cared so much for my dad?

I wish that those that saw fit to take his life could have seen him for what he truly was – a loving, caring family man who would have done anything for anyone.

THE CASE SO FAR:

On November 1, 2012, David Black, 52 and from Cookstown, got into his black Audi A4 and drove off to start work at Maghaberry jail.

At about 7.30am, shots were fired at his car on the M1, causing him to veer off the road.

He died at the scene, and the car used in the attack was burnt out in Lurgan.

Police arrested a string of people in the weeks afterwards, including Damien McLaughlin from Kilmascally Road in the Ardboe area of east Co Tyrone, then aged 36.

He was charged, and is still awaiting trial.

He is accused of preparation of terrorist acts, aiding and abetting murder, belonging to a proscribed organisation, and possession of an article for use in terrorism – charges he denies.

Following a long string of hearings, in September last year a court finally fixed his trial date for February 20, 2017. However, before it could begin McLaughlin vanished.

It turned out he had last signed for bail in mid-November 2016, then fled.

He was later caught in Donegal, and is now subject to an attempt to extradite him to Northern Ireland. However, several days ago the Irish News reported that judge Aileen Donnelly in Dublin had voiced concerns about strip-searching at Maghaberry jail, which raised “a real risk that this respondent could be subject to inhuman and degrading conditions” if he was extradited.

The next hearing is due in Dublin’s High Court on November 21.

Other people have faced charges in connection with the investigation, and one man – Dubliner Vincent Banks, 49, of Smithfield Gate Apartments – was convicted of IRA membership.

However, no-one has been convicted of the attack itself.