Belfast Telegraph

Explosion that killed prison officer Adrian Ismay captured on CCTV, court told

Adrian Ismay died after a bomb exploded underneath his van in east Belfast (Department of Justice/PA)
Adrian Ismay died after a bomb exploded underneath his van in east Belfast (Department of Justice/PA)

By Michael Donnelly

The trial of a Belfast man accused of murdering Prison Officer Adrian Ismay, heard the near fatal booby-trap explosion which ultimately claimed his life was captured on CCTV.

Belfast Crown Court was told that in the aftermath of the March 2016 explosion outside the Hillsborough Drive home of the 52-year-old father of three, police "trawled" the local east Belfast area for CCTV footage.

A detective constable from the serious crime branch, said he reviewed footage from four sites, including one from a funeral parlour. 

He said that shortly after 7am that March morning he saw Mr Ismay's blue VW van drive towards the Cregagh Road.

However, he told the non-jury trial of west Belfast man Christopher Alphonson Robinson, that the warder's van never made it to the end of the street, "because there was an explosion".

Although seriously injured in the no-warning undercar blast, Mr Ismay initially survived the attack, spending four days in hospital before dying from a heart attack a week later on March 15, after complaining of chest pains.

The man accused of Adrian Ismay's murder, Christopher Robinson, outside court.

Trial judge Mr Justice McAlinden also heard that while the CCTV footage showed the coming and goings of various pedestrians and vehicles in the hours leading up to the explosion, only two were of interest.

One was a taxi, which was quickly eliminated from inquiries. The other was a red coloured Citroen C3 car, that drove past Mr Ismay's home, shortly after 3am, before returning, parking up, its headlights out.

Moments later someone ran down the street and got into the rear of the C3 before driving off, its headlights still switched off. 

The prosecution claim that, that Citroen car belonged to the sister-in-law of 48-year-old Robinson.

Earlier Northern Ireland's former State Pathologist, Prof Jack Crane revelled that the "major significant factor" in the warder's sudden death, were the shrapnel wounds he suffered in the booby-trap bombing.

The now retired pathologist said while Mr Ismay died from a pulmonary embolism, it was caused by a large coiled blood clot blocking the main artery to the heart and a second clot lodged in the right lung.

Prof Crane said Mr Ismay had a shrapnel wound to his right eye, but it was the wound to the left calf, behind his knee, which lead to his immobility and the development of deep vein thrombosis.

Sections of this thrombosis, broke off and travelled to his heart and lung.  That blocking the main pulmonary artery measured some 19cm long, by 5cm in diameter, and although he was given "clot-buster drugs", when rushed to hospital suffering from chest pains, he failed to respond to the treatment.

He said that since beeing released from hospital and allowed to return home, Mr Ismay would have spent his time resting, with his leg elevated and that he would have been fairly immobile. He was being treated by his family doctor, who reported the day before he died, he was suffering from post traumatic stress, and complained of flash-backs, poor sleep and anxiety.

Under cross examination by defence QC Arthur Harvey, Prof Crane agreed that it was the blood clot, caused by his immobility which led to his death, and that this "can occur suddenly and without warning".

The professor said that the detachment of the clots, he thought, would have been "very sudden", adding later it was "the retention of that shrapnel" which had restricted Mr Ismay's immobility.

However, when asked by Mr Justice McAlinden if the shrapnel, from the bomb blast, had contributed to his immobility and in turn a contributing factor to his death, Prof Crane replied: "while not a contributory factor, it was the major significant factor".

Later the court heard from a forensic expert who said the explosives used in the blast were of Semtex origin and that the booby-trap device had been attached by magnets similar to those used to secure signs on a car. 

The device was mounted on the driver's side, and slightly behind where the driver's seat would have been.

Robinson, of Aspen Park, in the Poleglass area, and possession of the booby-trap device, and to providing the Citroen C3 car knowing, or suspecting it would be used in terrorism.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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