Northern Ireland

David Black murder: Police apologise to family over missing accused

Image caption Damien McLaughlin is due to stand trial next month

Police investigating the murder of prison officer David Black have visited his family to apologise after a man charged over his killing went missing.

Damien Joseph McLaughlin, 40, of Kilmascally Road near Ardboe, is due to stand trial next month on charges that include aiding and abetting his murder.

However, in court on Friday, police said he had breached his bail conditions.

They said he had not been seen by them since November.

Mr Black's family said they feel betrayed by the justice system.

Mr Black was shot dead by dissident republicans as he drove along the M1 on his way to work at Maghaberry prison in November 2012.

'Honest and constructive meeting'

"Senior detectives involved in the case met with Mrs Black and her son Kyle this afternoon at the family home to offer sincere apologies on behalf of the PSNI for the stress and worry this situation is creating for them," Ch Supt Raymond Murray said on Tuesday.

"The officers spent a number of hours discussing the matter and listening to the concerns of Mrs Black and Kyle, as well as providing reassurance of the steps police are taking to locate the whereabouts of Damien McLaughlin.

"It was an honest and constructive meeting and we will keep Mr Black's family updated as we continue our enquiries.

"We also informed them that we intend to review this matter in order to ensure that the processes currently in place surrounding bail checks are robust and will provide the necessary requirements for both the families of the victims and the police."

'Laughable to say the least'

McLaughlin had served just over two years in prison for possession of guns and ammunition.

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Image caption David Black was shot dead as drove along the M1 on his way to work at Maghaberry prison in November 2012

He spent time in prison on remand on charges connected to Mr Black's killing, but was released on bail in May 2014. A series of conditions imposed were later varied, including the removal of a stipulation that he had to wear an electronic tag and a reduction in the number of days he had to report to police.

At Belfast Crown Court on Friday, a judge revoked McLaughlin's bail after being told that he had failed to sign with police in November and had not been seen by them since.

Kyle Black said the decision to relax the bail conditions was "laughable to say the least".

"What is even more farcical is that someone with previous terrorist convictions and who is charged with further terrorist-related offences cannot sign bail (which should be completed daily) for more than five weeks and takes until then before concerns are raised about his location," he said.

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