Murder inquiry launched after prison officer dies following bomb attack
A murder inquiry has been launched after a prison officer died following a bombing in Northern Ireland.
A post-mortem examination has concluded Adrian Ismay died as a direct result of the injuries sustained when the booby-trapped device detonated under his van on March 4.
Detective Chief Inspector Richard Campbell, from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said: "Today is yet another difficult day for the Ismay family, his friends and colleagues as they struggle to come to terms with the events of the past 12 days.
"This has been treated as a significant serious crime investigation from the outset and will continue as such."
Dissident republican group the New IRA, which opposes the peace process, said it was responsible.
The 52-year-old father-of-three suffered leg injuries and was said to be recovering well from surgery. But he was taken back into hospital on Tuesday morning and died.
One man has already been charged with attempted murder.
DCI Campbell added: "We are liaising with the Public Prosecution Service in relation to the individual who is currently charged with attempted murder and causing an explosion with intent to endanger life."
Mr Ismay, a veteran officer who had more than 28 years service with the Northern Ireland Prison Service, was married and had three grown-up girls.
He trained other guards at HMP Maghaberry near Lisburn and was based at Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre in south Belfast. He also worked as a search and rescue volunteer and spent many years with St John's ambulance.
Finlay Spratt, chairman of the Prison Officer's Association in Northern Ireland, said he believed his friend and colleague had been murdered.
"I am not surprised a murder inquiry has been started," he said.
"It is my considered opinion that Adrian was murdered.
"He was making a good recovery but we did not know the long-term consequences which were caused by that bomb under his van."
The attack happened in the Hillsborough Drive area, off Woodstock Road, a predominantly loyalist area in the east of the city, just after 7am on Friday March 4.
The New IRA claimed to have used the plastic explosive Semtex and a commercial detonator, but police have released no details.
Police have renewed appeals for information about two vehicles they believe were involved in the murder.
A red Citroen C3 - registration SKZ 6662 - is believed to have been used by those planting the device during the early hours of the morning.
A silver Skoda Fabia, with a KFZ 2352 number plate, is suspected to have been used before and after the incident by those involved.
Describing the perpetrators as "despicable," Mr Finlay confirmed that warders had been taunted by paramilitary inmates when news of the death was announced.
He said prisoners at Roe House had cheered and smoked cigars on hearing of the tragedy.
"It is a fact that happened," he said.
"They were cheering and smoking cigars because he was dead.
"That just demonstrates the type of people that we are dealing with.
"And, these are the people who talk about their human rights being violated.
"What about Adrian's human rights - was there any consideration given to him or all of the prison officers who have been killed?"
Following the attack on Mr Ismay, police commanders warned violent dissidents were trying to escalate their activities to mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising - a pivotal date in the republican calendar which sparked a series of events that led to 26 counties in Ireland gaining independence from Britain.
Sue McAllister, director general of the Northern Ireland Prison Service has requested an updated assessment of the level of threat posed by dissident republicans, which has been severe for some time.