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Christopher Robinson found guilty of murdering prison officer Adrian Ismay

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Christopher Robinson

Christopher Robinson

Photopress Belfast

Christopher Robinson

The man accused of murdering prison officer Adrian Ismay has been found guilty of the killing.

Christopher Alphonsos Robinson (49), from Aspen Walk in Twinbrook, was arrested after the explosion and was subsequently charged with murdering Mr Ismay almost four years ago.

Mr Ismay died 11 days after a device exploded underneath his van in March 2016.

The 52-year old father-of-three had just left his east Belfast home and was driving along Hillsborough Drive at around 7am on March 4, 2016 when the device detonated after he went over a speed ramp.

The verdict was delivered by Mr Justice McAlinden at Belfast High Court this afternoon following a lengthy non-jury trial.

After being handed a life sentence, the judge told Robinson he will determine the minimum length of time he will have to serve before being considered eligible for release at a later date.

There was a heavy security presence for the hearing, which lasted four hours, with armed officers in the courtroom where Mr Ismay's loved ones sat in the public gallery.

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Murdered prison officer Adrian Ismay

Murdered prison officer Adrian Ismay

Photopress Belfast

Murdered prison officer Adrian Ismay

During the non-jury trial - which was adjourned on several occasions after it was opened in October 2018 - it emerged that the men worked together as volunteers for St John's Ambulance.

As well as denying murdering Mr Ismay, Robinson had also denied possessing explosives and providing a car for terrorism.

Robinson was found guilty of possessing explosives but the Judge "made no finding" on the charge of providing property for terrorism.

The car in question was a Citroen C3 which belonged to a relative of the the accused.

It had been the Crown's case that the evening before the explosion, Robinson picked up the Citroen from his brother's west Belfast workplace, and that this vehicle was used to transport the bomb left under Mr Ismay's van.

The Crown claims had been denied by Robinson, with his defence team making the case that the only evidence against him had been circumstantial.

The judge today said the evidence had showed that there was no doubt that this was the vehicle that had been used in the murder.

He added the discovery of a poppy appeal car sticker, which had been found in a black bin, had been forensically linked to the defendant.

Mr Justice McAlinden said the sticker had been used as a cynical ploy to ensure the vehicle did not appear out of place in the area.

He said the murder had "all the hallmarks of a dissident republican attack".

The Judge said Robinson had accessed online material which was militant republican in nature and had searched online on multiple occasions for news articles reporting the immediate aftermath of the attack on Mr Ismay's vehicle.

At the time Mr Ismay's name had not been released to media.

The hearing heard that Robinson had been interviewed 16 times by police throughout the case and had provided two pre-prepared written statements to investigating officers.

The judge told Robinson - who did not give evidence at the trial - that he would not draw any "adverse inference" into his decision not to take the stand.

But taking the evidence as a whole, the defendant had targeted Mr Ismay.

Justice McAlinden said "the defendant was intimately... involved" in the death of Mr Ismay.

Speaking following the ruling, PSNI detective superintendent Richard Campbell said the force welcomes the verdict and hopes in will provide some comfort to Adrian Ismay's family.

“My thoughts today are first and foremost with Adrian’s grieving wife, his three children and wider family circle who are still coming to terms with the pain and loss they feel every day," he said.

“They will be reliving the horror of what happened when a device, which had been placed under his van, exploded in the Hillsborough Drive area of east Belfast on Friday 4th March 2016.

"Adrian, 52, who was a St John’s Ambulance volunteer, died 11 days later in hospital on March 15.

"I hope today's conviction will provide some comfort for Adrian’s family. It should also serve as a warning to anyone involved in terrorism within our community that the PSNI will investigate these offences robustly and vigorously to bring offenders to justice."

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