Belfast Telegraph

David Black prison officer murder case fugitive Damien McLaughlin to make a fresh bid for freedom

A suspected dissident wanted over the murder over prison officer David Black is to make a fresh bid for freedom, a court heard on Friday.

Damien McLaughlin (40), of Kilmascally Road near Ardboe, absconded from his bail address in west Belfast last November and went on the run.

The PSNI later admitted that it only became aware of his disappearance when officers called at his bail address the following month and discovered the house empty of furniture and found milk in the fridge was several weeks old.

A massive manhunt was launched for McLaughlin on both sides of the border and police was eventually secured a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) for him to be arrested on sight.

He was eventually arrested by an armed Gardai response unit on March 2 this year while walking along the street in Ramelton, Co Donegal, en route to Letterkenny.

McLaughlin was later taken to Dublin where he appeared before the Central Criminal Court on foot of the EAW and was remanded in custody.

He is due to stand trial later this year accused of aiding and abetting in the murder of David Black in November 2012, possessing articles in connection with terrorism, preparation of acts of terrorism and belonging to a proscribed organiation.

During a review of the case today at Belfast Crown Court, a prosecution lawyer told Mr Justice Treacy: "This is the accused who absconded while on bail and was subsequently arrested in the Republic of Ireland.

"He is currently in custody pending extradition from the Republic to this jurisdiction on these charges.

"His case is listed for a court in Dublin on May 15 and he intends to make a bail application on that date and that is a matter for the authorities there.''

He added that the Crown had no response yet from the authorities in the Republic on a possible hearing date for the extradition proceedings.

"It is clear that we will not know any more about the state of play in Dublin before May 18 and we will have to await the outcome of extradition proceedings in this case.

"Our application is to have this case listed at the end of this term and by then, perhaps, the court will have a clearer picture of what is happening in Dublin.''

With no objections from McLaughlin's defence counsel Desmond Hutton, Mr Justice Treacy agreed to list the case for mention again on Friday, June 30.

McLaughlin's disappearance only came to light in January this year at the same court when a prosecution lawyer asked for his bail to be revoked after he could be found at his bail address in west Belfast.

The lawyer told Mr Justice Treacy that Mr McLaughlin failed to sign with police in November.

He said that on December 23 last, police called to the address which he said "appears to have effectively been cleared out".

Milk that was four weeks out of date was found in the fridge.

The court heard that when officers checked his other address in Ardboe, and those of family members, this was "of no assistance".

The prosecutor also said that the people who provided sureties, namely Mr McLaughlin's uncles, were also "not able to assist in locating him".

McLaughlin's disappearance while on bail provoked a public outcry from David Black's family who said they "felt let down and hurt by the justice system''.

Mr Black's widow Yvonne, daughter Kyra and son Kyle were later visited by the PSNI officer leading the manhunt for McLaughlin, Detective Chief Supt Raymond Murray.

DCS Murray said he had visited the Black family  "to offer sincere apologies on behalf of the PSNI for the stress and worry this situation is creating for them" and provided "reassurance of the steps police are taking to locate the whereabouts of Damien McLaughlin''.

The failure by the PSNI to carry out regular bail checks on McLaughlin is currently the subject of a Police Ombudsman investigation.

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