The PSNI has issued a public apology to the family of murdered Prison Officer David Black days after it emerged a man accused of being part of the terror plot has not been seen since mid-November.
Police said detectives working on the case visited the Blacks in person on Tuesday to say sorry for “the hurt and distress” the whole episode has caused them, and pledged a review to ensure the handling of bail checks is “robust”.
However, the statement still sheds little light on why exactly it took such a long time for officers to act after Damien Joseph McLaughlin began missing his regular sign-in sessions with police – something which only became public last week.
McLaughlin, 40, had been on bail since 2014 ahead of his trial next month. He had at one stage been required to wear a tag, but his bail was later altered to remove this.
He denies aiding and abetting murder, belonging to a proscribed organisation, possession of articles for use in terrorism, and preparation of terrorist acts.
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The police statement in full said: “Senior detectives investigating the murder of David Black today visited his family to personally apologise for the hurt and distress caused following the breach of bail conditions by the individual charged with offences in connection with his death.
“Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said: “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.
“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.
“We also continue to liaise with other police services, including An Garda Siochana, and if this individual is located in another jurisdiction we will follow all normal procedures in place to have him returned to Northern Ireland.
“I re-iterate my appeal to anyone who knows the whereabouts of Damien McLaughlin, or who can assist the police in any way, to contact the PSNI on 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”