Officer’s identification of David Black suspect questioned

Members of David Black's family arrive at court
Members of David Black's family arrive at court

A detective who interviewed dissident IRA suspect Damien McLaughlin over his alleged involvement in the November 2012 murder of prison officer David Black, has rejected suggestions his CCTV identification of him “is worthless”.

The detective, who accepted this was the first time he had ever been asked to make such an identification in his 30 years as an officer, claimed that as he watched CCTV images of the Tyrone man, while interviewing him, he “came to believe” it was him.

The officer was giving evidence at McLaughlin’s Belfast Crown Court Diplock-type non-jury trial.

The 41-year-old, from Kilmascally Road near Ardboe, denies a total of six charges including aiding and abetting the drive-by shooting of 52-year-old father of two Mr Black, and IRA membership.

During cross-examination by defence QC Orlando Pownall, the officer accepted his identification “was markedly different” from that of a normal independent identification witness, and that it was “quite unusual, if not unique for an investigating officer to become an identitification witness”.

At one stage when Mr Pownall pointed out that there were “no significant, no distinctive identification features” in the CCTV footage to identify McLaughlin, the detective said one area was that “he has a bit of a bulbous nose”.

However, he agreed he had “not recorded that anywhere”.

The officer further accepted that the colour of the suspect’s eyes or hair could not be identified from the CCTV footage, nor could his voice be heard, or his height discerned.

Mr Pownall also put it to the detective while there were “no marks, no mole, or tattoo”, one thing recorded as being identified was that the man in the CCTV was wearing “a ring”, but that McLaughlin had none, nor were any of the distinctive clothing worn by the suspect recovered from his home.

“I am going to suggest, the reality is, although probably you won’t accept it, in the circumstances that prevailed at the time of your purported identification ... it is worthless”.

“It’s your suggestion,” replied the detective, who added: “It’s not my opinion.”

At hearing.