Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

David Black killing: Prison officer murder accused given bail

David Black was gunned down on his way to work at Maghaberry Prison in November 2012
David Black was gunned down on his way to work at Maghaberry Prison in November 2012

A man accused of murdering prison officer David Black can be released on bail, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice O'Hara granted Sean McVeigh's application after describing the evidence against him as being “far from overwhelming”.

McVeigh, from Victoria Street in Lurgan, Co Armagh, is charged with the murder carried out on the M1 motorway in November 2012.

The 33-year-old faces a further count of possessing an AK47 assault rifle with intent to endanger life. Mr Black (52, below), a father of two from Cookstown in Co Tyrone, was gunned down on his way to work at Maghaberry Prison.

Prosecutors claimed McVeigh was seen on CCTV footage leaving his home on the morning of the killing and heading in the direction of a car used by the killers.

He is also alleged to have purchased two hats, two pairs of gloves, a box of matches and a bottle of domestic cleaner the day before.

At one stage he was seen carrying a petrol container.

With the Toyota Camry used in the attack later found burnt out in Lurgan, a prosecution barrister claimed the activities were linked to efforts to forensically clean the vehicle.

Opposing bail, he cited McVeigh's alleged associations with prominent republican Colin Duffy and also claimed there was a risk of further offending. The court heard the accused has affiliated himself with Real IRA figures since being held in the separated prison regime.

But Dessie Hutton, defending, stressed there is no forensic evidence to link his client with the murder. “The prosecution case is circumstantial in the extreme and built largely around supposition,” he said.

Disputing the contention that McVeigh may re-offend if bailed, Mr Hutton pointed out that he was first arrested and released days after the killing.

“He has remained in Lurgan and lived lawfully for 15 months,” the barrister added.

Granting bail, the judge said: “I acknowledge the prosecution objection but the evidence of the involvement of Mr McVeigh in the murder of Mr Black is far from overwhelming.”

Mr Justice O'Hara said he could not refuse applications simply because of alleged dissident republican involvement.

“I have to take account of more than that,” he added.

Background

Prison officer David Black was gunned down on his way to work at Maghaberry Prison in November 2012. The 52-year-old was a married father of two from Cookstown and was driving along the M1 when he was shot dead by dissident republicans. His killers pulled alongside the experienced officer’s car and opened fire. Mr Black was the first prison officer to be murdered in almost 20 years.

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