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Adrian Ismay murder accused returned to custody within 24 hours after breaching bail conditions, court hears

By Alan Erwin

Published 05/05/2016

Adrian Ismay
Adrian Ismay

A man charged with murdering a prison officer in Belfast was returned to custody less than 24 hours after securing bail, a court heard today.

Police said Christopher Robinson breached release conditions by failing to respond to curfew checks carried out at around the same tiime as a bomb was planted under Adrian Ismay's van.

A detective claimed any suspicion 45-year-old Robinson is not at home during nighttime "increases the perception on behalf of police of a serious, imminent risk by dissident republicans".

He also revealed MI5 have assessed the current threat level posed by the New IRA grouping who claimed responsibility for the fatal attack as severe.

Details emerged as Robinson was re-admitted to bail but warned he must answer the door when police call to check on him.

He is charged with murdering 52-year-old Mr Ismay in March.

The prison officer suffered serious leg injuries when the booby-trap device exploded under the van while he was driving in east Belfast.

He had been recovering, but died after being returned to hospital 11 days later.

Robinson, of Aspen Park in the Dunmurry area of the city, is also charged with possessing explosives with intent to endanger life.

He is allegedly linked to the bombing by CCTV footage of a car believed to have been used to plant the device at the victim's Hillsborough Drive home early on March 4.

Forensic examination of the car was said to reveal traces of RDX, an identifier in high explosive material, on its rear floor and seats.

At the High Court on Wednesday prosecutors said Robinson knew the victim through working together as volunteers with St John's Ambulance.

The accused had been granted bail at that stage on strict conditions, including a night-time curfew and electronic monitoring.

However, police claimed there was no answer when they called at his home at 2.25am this morning.

They returned around four hours later and arrested him for an alleged breach of bail.

As Robinson was brought from custody at Belfast Magistrates' Court on Thursday a detective sergeant objected to him being released again.

He said: "This was the first night Mr Robinson was released on bail and the check was conducted at approximately the time he is alleged to have planted the device that killed Mr Ismay."

The detective claimed the accused poses a serious risk to police and prison staff, describing him as "a person of trust" to the small group of terrorists.

He added: "The current threat of violent dissident republicans in Northern Ireland, particularly the group known as the New IRA who claimed responsibility for the murder of Mr Ismay, remains severe.

"I got that confirmed this morning by MI5."

It was confirmed, however, that police were not suggesting Robinson was not at home when they called.

Defence counsel Sean Devine indicated that his client had taken some alcohol after spending weeks in custody.

He told the court: "There's going to be steps taken to install a device at his home in order to ensure that when anyone who comes to the door, even if he's comatose, it will have the effect of wakening him up.

"This isn't an issue that's going to arise again, Mr Robinson sees how vigorously his bail conditions are going to be enforced by the authorities."

Re-admitting the accused to bail, the District Judge told him he must get up any time police call.

Robinson confirmed he understood the terms, but enquired from the dock: "Can I not sleep?"

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