The family of murdered prison officer David Black said they feel let down by the justice system following the disappearance of Damien McLaughlin.
Belfast Crown Court learned on Friday that the Ardboe man, who is due to stand trial next month on charges of aiding and abetting Mr Black’s murder, possessing items to be used in terrorism and belonging to an illegal organisation, has not been seen by police since November.
Released from custody in May 2014, the 40-year-old was obligated to sign at a police station five days a week after an amendment to his bail conditions was passed allowing a reduction from seven days, and his tag to be removed. Although it is unclear whether he has absconded, it has emerged he was no longer living at his west Belfast bail address when police visited on December 23.
The prosecution said in court it “appears to have effectively been cleared out”.
A judge has now revoked McLaughlin’s bail.
Speaking on behalf of the Black family, David’s son Kyle said: “The family is feeling let down, hurt and quite frankly betrayed by the justice system.
“Not only are they letting us down as a family as regards to these latest developments, they are also letting dad down - and he was part of that justice system.
“Being a prison officer is the reason why he was murdered.
“This asks serious questions with regards to the handling of suspects up for terror-related offences, the leniency of bail conditions imposed and also the monitoring of bail conditions.”
Demanding answers from both police and the Justice Minister, DUP peer Lord Morrow has blamed Northern Ireland’s “elongated judicial system”.
He has also questioned why “no arrest warrant was sought and neither the courts or public alerted” by police and dubbed their handling of the case “farcical”.
“The handling of this case, from the granting of bail to the apparent loss of a suspected terrorist is incredulous,” he added.
Policing Board member Mid Ulster DUP MLA, Keith Buchanan said ne too would be questioning the incident while UUP MLA added: “The authorities have serious questions to answer in this case, and I feel that the judicial system needs to rethink the process of how terrorism suspects are managed.
“My thoughts at this time are with the David Black’s family, who have been put into the public eye due to the failings of the judicial system.”