Dissident republican Colin Duffy held over drive-by killing

Nov 2, 2012
Linda Palermo

Police investigating murder of David Black arrest 'most recognisable name' in republican movement


DISSIDENT republican Colin Duffy was arrested this morning by Northern Ireland police investigating yesterday's murder of a prison officer, David Black, in County Armagh.

Duffy was picked up with an unnamed second man in Lurgan, just miles from the M1 motorway where 52-year-old Black died in his car following a drive-by shooting, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

Black, a prison officer for more than 30 years, was on his way to work at Maghaberry jail yesterday morning when he was assassinated by the occupant of a vehicle that pulled up alongside his and opened fire.

A member of the protestant Orange Order for many years, and the 30th prison officer to be killed in the province since 1974, Black could have been targeted because of a long-running protest campaign against conditions inside Maghaberry, the province's only maximum security prison.

His murder has united politicians across the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland, with Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson branding the culprits "flat-earth fanatics living in the dark ages, spewing out hatred from every pore", while his Sinn Fein deputy Martin McGuinness said: "Our community stands absolutely four-square and united against the activities of these groups."

Duffy, 44, is one of the key names in Northern Ireland's dissident republican movement, being described by the BBC in 2009 as "perhaps its most recognisable name and face." He joined the Provisional IRA in his youth and has been cleared of murder charges in three court cases involving police and army killings over the last two decades.

In January this year Duffy was acquitted at Belfast Crown Court of the murders in 2009 of British Army Sappers Patrick Azimkar, 21, and Mark Quinsey, 23, who had been killed as they waited outside the gates of the Massereene barracks in Antrim for a pizza delivery.

Duffy's co-defendant Brian Shivers was sentenced to life for the double murder, but despite Duffy's DNA being found on a latex glove tip in the getaway car used by the soldiers' killers, Judge Anthony Hart said the prosecution had failed to link him to the murder plot.

In 1997, Duffy was accused of shooting dead two RUC officers in Lurgan town centre, but the charges were subsequently dropped. Four years previously he had been jailed for the murder of a former Ulster Defence Regiment soldier but had been acquitted after serving three and a half years because the evidence used to convict him was ruled unsafe.

In both cases Duffy's solicitor was Rosemary Nelson, whose murder in 1999 by the Loyalist Volunteer Force led to an inquiry into whether state agencies had colluded with the protestant paramilitaries who had killed her. The inquiry found no such collusion, but evidence was presented that Duffy and Nelson had been having an affair.

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