Convicted terrorist Damien McLaughlin not only had motive, but also opportunity, for his alleged involvement in the “murderous attack” of prison officer David Black, a Belfast court has heard.
The claim was made as 41-year-old McLaughlin, from Kilmascally Road near Ardboe, went on trial at the city’s Crown Court on charges arising out of the ambush-murder of 52-year-old father of two Mr Black on November 1, 2012.
Trial judge Mr Justice Colton, sitting alone in the Diplock style no-jury trial, heard that McLaughlin allegedly drove the Toyota Camry car across the border from the Irish Republic and that it was used in the dissident IRA shooting.
Listening to the prosecution claims was, among others, Mr Black’s widow Yvonne and son Kyle.
They heard that his ambush and assassination as he drove from their Cookstown home along the M1 motorway to Maghaberry Prison, was a “murderous attack ... not opportunistic”, and that there was a “very strong inference it was meticulously planned and a number of people were involved in the operation”.
The family also heard that “these people must have identified his home, kept it under observation and also noted his movements and his car, and the route he used to drive to work”.
The court was told that Mr Black, who changed his plans of asking for a day off that fateful morning, was shot three times as he drove his Audi car along the motorway by a gunman using an AK47 assault rifle on automatic, and that at least four other shots had been fired from the Toyota Camry as it drove alongside him.
Other motorists reported hearing “a bang” and realised it was shooting on hearing more “bangs” and seeing smoke and muzzle flashes coming from the passenger side window of the Toyota.
The prosecution further claimed that Mr Black was murdered “as a direct result of the perceived grievances of those detained at Maghaberry”, and the murder was later claimed in a statement to the Irish News “by a group styling itself IRA”.
McLaughlin, serving a sentence for possession of firearms, was one of those later convicted of criminal damage to prison property as part of those protests over conditions in Maghaberry. He also gave an interview in support of the protests.
Earlier the court heard that the Toyota car had been bought in Dublin by Vincent Banks, later convicted of IRA membership. It is the prosecution case that Banks drove this vehicle to Carrigallen in Co Leitrim where it was “hidden in plain sight” in a lay-by where it was allegedly picked up three weeks later by McLaughlin.
McLaughlin, it was claimed, was identified by both Garda and PSNI officers from CCTV in a garage in Carrigallen and also named by a local man who claimed to have supplied him a battery for the car and saw him in the Toyota.
The prosecution submitted that the “evidence reveals that the terrorists intended to carry out their attack ... and it was therefore necessary to bring the Camry north ... and that on the evidence, the defendant was present in Carrigallen ... and was the person who enabled that to be done”.
In conclusion, the lawyer claimed that McLaughlin had not only “a motive” for his involvement but also “had the opportunity to engage in the activity that he did ... and that he engaged in the activity with, at least the intention of assisting others to use the car for the purpose of attacking Mr Black”.
In all McLaughlin denies a total of six charges including aiding and abetting, counselling and procuring, in the Irish Republic, the murder of the father of two.
However, the majority of charges were allegedly commited within the Crown Court division of Craigavon on October 31, 2012, and centre on the Toyota car used in the shooting the following day.
In addition to belonging or professing to be a member of the IRA, McLaughlin also faces four charges involving the Toyota car in that he had possession of it in connection of an act or terrorism and that he started, moved and drove the car.