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Belfast man accused of murdering prison officer Ismay won't give evidence at trial

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Christopher Robinson

Christopher Robinson

Photopress Belfast

Christopher Robinson

A west Belfast man accused of the murder of prison officer Adrian Ismay almost four years ago will not be giving evidence at his trial.

Defence counsel Arthur Harvey QC told trial judge Mr Justice McAlinden that Christopher Alphonsus Robinson had been advised that if he did not give evidence the court could "draw an inference'' from that refusal.

Mr Harvey told the non-jury Diplock-style trial sitting in Belfast Crown Court: "My instructions are that he does not intend to give evidence.''

Robinson (49), of Aspen Walk, Dunmurry, denies murdering 52-year-old Mr Ismay on March 15, 2016.

He further denies charges of possessing an improvised explosive device and providing money or property for the purposes of terrorism.

Mr Ismay was travelling to work from his home at Hillsborough Drive in east Belfast on March 4, 2016, when the device exploded under his Volkswagen Transporter vehicle.

Although he initially survived the blast, the prison officer died 11 days later from his injuries.

The defence were due to call a priest on Wednesday to give evidence in the case, but Mr Harvey told the court that an oral statement would instead be handed into court along with a number of medical reports.

Both the Crown and the defence are due to make their closing submissions in the case, which first started in October 2018 and resumed in June 2019 following a seven month adjournment.

At the opening of the trial 15 months ago, the prosecution showed CCTV footage of a Citroen car being driven into the victim’s street hours before the attack.

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Murdered prison officer Adrian Ismay

Murdered prison officer Adrian Ismay

Photopress Belfast

It is the prosecution case that the vehicle was used in the murder plot.

The court further heard that the accused looked up Adrian Ismay’s profile online and that he showed a keen interest in the news story as it developed.

The prosecution told the trial judge that before Adrian Ismay died he confirmed he had volunteered with St John’s Ambulance alongside the accused and that Robinson would have known he was a prison officer.

The prosecution lawyer told the court: “There is an inescapable inference that Christopher Robinson was involved in the joint enterprise to kill or seriously injure Adrian Ismay.”

When the trial resumed last June, Mr Justice McAlinden heard that Robinson was arrested on March 7, 2016 and was interviewed 16 times over the course of his detention until March 11, 2016.

During these interviews he spoke to confirm his name, date of birth and that he understood the nature of his arrest.

He also requested an appropriate adult due to mental health issues.

The prosecutor said that apart from two short statements, Robinson refused to answer questions over the course of all interviews.

In his statement, Robinson confirmed he had been arrested on suspicion of the attempted murder of an off-duty prison officer, but said: "I have no knowledge of this incident, nor did I have involvement in it". He also denied being an "active member of the New IRA''.

He also confirmed that he knew Mr Ismay as they were both members of St John's Ambulance based on the Saintfield road, and that Mr Ismay had been his senior officer.

Belfast Telegraph