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  1. ITV Report

Accused had 'motive' for involvement in officer murder

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 Mr Black.

The father of two was shot as he drove along the M1 motorway from his home in Cookstown to Maghaberry Prison 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 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 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 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 later claimed in a statement to the Irish News "by a group styling itself IRA."

Damien McLaughlin denies aiding and abetting in the murder and a further five charges including being a member of the IRA. Credit: Pacemaker

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 later gave 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’s 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 41-year-old denies aiding and abetting in the murder and a further five charges including being a member of the IRA.