Wednesday 17 January 2018

Suspect faces court on charges linked to murder of prison officer David Black

Michael McHugh

A SUSPECT allegedly linked to the murder of a prison officer in the North attempted to get a battery for the car used to attack him, a court heard today.

Damien Joseph McLaughlin, 36, denies obtaining and bringing from the Republic the Toyota Camry which was used to shoot dead David Black, 52, on the M1 motorway in Co Armagh on November 1.

He was refused bail at Craigavon Magistrates' Court today after a district judge said he posed a serious risk of reoffending and had previous convictions for possession of firearms.

He was also accused by police of membership of a colour party, a republican show of strength, at a funeral in Dublin.

A PSNI detective said: "The evidence is that there is CCTV showing Mr McLaughlin in a shop very close to the car making inquiries about a battery that would allow him to start the car because there was an issue with starting it.

"The Garda have evidence that Mr McLaughlin obtained assistance to start the car."

Dissident republicans claimed responsibility for killing father-of-two Mr Black as he drove to work at Maghaberry high security prison, near Lisburn, Co Antrim.

Mr McLaughlin is allegedly linked by CCTV evidence and a registration plate trace by gardai to a Toyota Camry moved north from the Republic a day before the killing. A car with the same registration mark and make was used in the high-speed shooting.

Detectives believe they know where and approximately when the vehicle was moved, police have claimed in court.

McLaughlin, from Kilmascally Road, Dungannon, Co Tyrone, appeared via video link from Maghaberry accused of obtaining the car at Carrigallen, Co Leitrim, and bringing it to Northern Ireland.

His solicitor Peter Corrigan told Craigavon Magistrates' Court that security camera footage did not show his client close to the vehicle and there was no evidence that he started the car.

"There was CCTV in relation to the car being in the Clogher Valley but no evidence linking my client to that," he said.

"There is no evidence linking him to starting a vehicle, using a battery or, more importantly, driving a vehicle."

Mr Black, from Cookstown in Co Tyrone, was shot close to Craigavon, the first prison officer killed in Northern Ireland for 20 years.

A detective told the court today: "Gardai have provided PSNI with material and information that will in due course become evidence, allowing us to suspect Mr McLaughlin had gone to Leitrim the day before the murder and brought that Toyota Camry north of the border."

He said police opposed bail. The murder weapon has not been recovered.

Mr Corrigan said his client was prepared to put up a surety of £750,000.

He has a wife and three children, including a six-week-old baby, and has secured work.

District Judge Alan White dismissed the bail application.

McLaughlin is due appear again via video link at Craigavon Magistrates' Court on February 1.

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