Belfast Telegraph

Prison officer murder case accused to face an extradition hearing

By John Cassidy

A suspected dissident wanted in Northern Ireland in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black is to face extradition proceedings next month, a court has heard.

Damien McLaughlin 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 milk which was several weeks old.

A manhunt was launched for McLaughlin (40), of Kilmascally Road near Ardboe, on both sides of the border and police eventually secured a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) for him to be arrested on sight.

He was eventually arrested by an armed Garda 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 was 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 organisation.

During a review of the case yesterday at Belfast Crown Court, a prosecution lawyer told Mr Justice Treacy: "Extradition proceedings in Dublin are listed for July 19 this year.

"In the light of that I would suggest that we list this case for review in the first week after the vacation."

Mr Justice Treacy said the case would be mentioned again on Friday September 15. 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 not 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".

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, 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''.

They 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".

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

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