David Black murder accused appears in court

Sean McVeigh

Sean McVeigh

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A man charged with murdering a prison officer from Cookstown has appeared in court today.

David Black, 52, was shot dead as he drove to work along a motorway in Co Armagh.

He was the first prison warder to be killed in almost 20 years and the car used in the attack was found burned out nearby.

Sean McVeigh, 33, from Lurgan was also charged with possession of an assault rifle with the intent to endanger life.

He was surrounded by prison officers at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court. His supporters in the packed courtroom clapped as he was led from the dock.

The district judge called for order.

“It is not the occasion for that kind of behaviour,” he said as the defendant, wearing jeans and a light-coloured hoodie, was taken to the cells.

Peter Corrigan, solicitor for the suspect, said police discovered a hat, gloves and matches during a search at McVeigh’s Victoria Street home and car a day after the attack but claimed his client’s defence warranted the prosecution authorities re-examining the case.

Mr Black, a father of two from Cookstown in Co Tyrone, was the 31st member of the prison service to be killed in Northern Ireland.

He was on the M1 motorway en route to Maghaberry Prison in Co Antrim when he was shot on November 1 2012.

A detective inspector told the court he could connect the accused to the charges but it was still very early in the case.

Mr Corrigan pointed to the fact that McVeigh still possessed the matches, which the lawyer said he bought in a shop near his home, after the shooting happened and told the court the hat and gloves were found among his work tools in his own vehicle.

“The relevance in relation to the matches is that matches were found at Inglewood where the getaway car was burned,” he said.

“I would ask the prosecution service, in the light of what he (McVeigh) has put forward comprehensively, that they review these charges in relation to the murder.”

The police investigator said the investigation was continuing and it could take three months until the file is submitted to prosecutors.

He was remanded in custody by district judge Mervyn Bates to reappear via video-link at the same court on February 28.