A terror accused goes missing and police have nothing to say

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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It is as if it has been the most natural thing in the world.

A man who is about to go on trial for aiding and abetting the murder of the prison officer David Black has gone missing.

But not only has he gone missing, he has not been seen for seven weeks – despite the fact that the accused was supposed to be signing with police five times a week.

The News Letter first asked the police about this on Friday, after news of the case emerged in a court hearing that day.

The PSNI said then that they would not say anything more about the case than had been said in court that day. Friday evening came and went without a whimper. Saturday the same. Then yesterday we gave the PSNI all day to answer elementary questions about this extraordinary development.

How did it happen? What were they doing about it?

Was there now a cross border manhunt?

They said that they could not comment on named individuals. The Garda told us the same.

Does that mean that there will no longer be appeals to the public about the individuals who are most sought by police?

Does it mean that the PSNI cannot even comment on the general principles in such outrageous circumstances?

This is a huge scandal yet the authorities in Northern Ireland are giving no sense that they think it to be so.

And what about our well-funded national broadcaster, the BBC? More than 48 hours after news emerged of this major story its website had no update on its original court report.

Imagine that this had happened in England: imagine that an accused in a terror case had gone missing in this way.

Not only would there be a nationwide uproar, the police’s role in it would already be under scrutiny. The prime minister would have commented on the saga.

Meanwhile, here in Northern Ireland it is not only the police who have serious questions to answer about this case, but the courts do too – on their implementation of bail policy.

Ben Lowry: No other country in the West would treat terror charges as lightly as Northern Ireland does

Disappearance of David Black suspect ‘utterly outrageous’