Man accused of IRA membership arrested after prison officer killing

David Black
David Black

The Special Criminal Court trial of a man accused of IRA membership has heard that he was arrested as part of investigations into the killing of Northern Irish prison officer David Black.

Mr Black, a 52-year-old father of two, was shot dead on November 1st 2012. He was driving to work at Maghaberry prison when the incident occurred.

Vincent Banks (47), of Smithfield Gate Apartments in Dublin 7 has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on December 18th 2012.

Opening the prosecution case today, Paul Greene SC said that the court will hear of the circumstances which led to the eventual arrest of Mr Banks.

He said that the case was "not simply concerned with the immediate circumstances", but also with the background.

The barrister told the court that on November 1st 2012, David Black, a prison officer in Northern Ireland, was killed as he was driving on the M1 near Lurgan. 

Mr Black was shot dead by the occupants of a passing Toyota Camry, the court heard.

The court will hear evidence that the car was later found further along the motorway, burnt out in a ditch, and that a forensic connection - firearm cartridges related to the death of Mr Black - was found in the Camry.

Mr Greene said the court will hear that one of the first things established by gardai was that the Camry was registered to Paul McCann, with an address on Rathgar Road in Dublin.

There will be evidence, the court heard, that the landlord of the premises recalled receiving a letter addressed to Paul McCann but that there was no resident of that name in the house.

Mr Greene said the court will hear that the car was sold on October 10th for 600 Euro, and that the vendor recalled the purchaser had signed the car's log-book with his left hand and held it with his right hand. 

Mr Greene said that this proposed evidence will be of "significance" because the court will hear that when the log-book was analyzed, the right thumb-print of Mr Banks was found.

The court heard further evidence will be that gardai established the car was transported to Carrigallen, County Leitrim, and was parked there until October 31st, the day before Mr Black was shot dead. 

There will be evidence that Mr Banks was arrested on December 18th and that when his house was searched, gardai found a copy of the Evening Herald from November 2nd, open on a page which reported on the killing of Mr Black.

The court will also hear evidence from Chief Superintendent Gerry Russell, who will say it is his belief Mr Banks was an IRA member on the date in question. 

The trial continues in front of Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, presiding, sitting with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Gerard Haughton.