Belfast Telegraph

Prison officer Adrian Ismay dies after Belfast dissident republican bomb attack

Police release images of cars they believe were used in the bomb attack

By Claire Williamson

A prison officer has died in hospital eleven days after a dissident republican bomb exploded under his van in east Belfast.

The 52-year-old married father of three required surgery after an explosive device partially detonated under the van he was driving on Hillsborough Drive off the Woodstock Road just after 7am on Friday March 4 - causing a loud explosion.

He had only driven a short distance from his home when the device detonated as he went over a speed ramp.

The long serving officer was based at Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre in south Belfast and worked as a trainer for new recruits to the NI Prison Service.

The man was taken to hospital and had undergone surgery and was understood to be recovering well.

The BBC reports that the man was rushed back into hospital on Tuesday morning with a suspected heart attack.

In a statement police confirmed Mr Ismay died in hospital this morning.

<< Read full PSNI statement>>

Prime Minister David Cameron joined with First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in expressing their sympathies to the man's family.

Detective Chief Inspector Richard Campbell said: “Adrian was the father of three grown up daughters and had over 28 years service with the Prison Service. Our deepest sympathy is with Adrian’s family, friends and colleagues at this sad time.

“One man has been charged with attempted murder and causing an explosion with intent to endanger life and the investigation is continuing. At this stage, we are working to establish the exact cause of Adrian’s death.”

Chief Constable George Hamilton said police would have to wait for medical evidence before confirming if his death would be treated as murder.


Police investigating the death believe a red Citroën C3 SkZ 6662 was used to plant the bomb at 2.20am on March 4.

Officers also released an image of a silver Skoda KFZ 2352 which is believed to have been used before and after the incident by those involved.




Mr Campbell said: "In particular I am appealing for any sightings of this vehicle, on the move or parked up, between 7pm on the evening of Thursday 3 March and 4am during the early hours of Friday 4 March.

"It is my understanding that a male was dropped off in this vehicle in Pilot Street in the Docks area of Belfast at around 3am on Friday morning and I am appealing for anyone who saw this, or who knows the identity of this male to come forward to police."

Anyone who may have any information is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number 101 or on Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

In a joint statement Justice Minister David Ford and Prison Service director-general Sue McAllister said: "Adrian Ismay gave over 28 years of service to prisons in Northern Ireland and he was greatly respected by all those who knew him.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time."


A group calling itself the New IRA claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a statement to the BBC the dissident republican group reportedly said the officer was targeted because he was involved in training other guards at HMP Maghaberry, near Lisburn.

A spokesman said the officer was one of a number on a list of potential targets and the attack arose from a dispute over the treatment of dissident Republican inmates.

The group claimed to have used the plastic explosive Semtex and a commercial detonator in the attack.

In the wake of the attack Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris issued a stark warning from PSNI headquarters that more attacks are planned as the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising approaches.


Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was "deeply saddened".

He said "I am deeply saddened that this prison officer has lost his life. First and foremost thoughts and prayers with his wife and three daughters.

"These are futile acts which achieve absolutely nothing."

DUP East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson has expressed his sympathies to the family of the prison officer who has died 11 days after a bomb attack on his vehicle as he travelled to work in east Belfast.

Mr Robinson said: "I am stunned and deeply saddened to learn that the prison officer from my constituency has passed away. It will not just be the people of east Belfast who share in this grief, but everyone in Northern Ireland.

"Mr Ismay has lost his life at the hands of terrorist murderers simply because he chose a career working in the service of our community. He was not just a brave and dedicated prison officer, but most importantly he was a loving husband and father.  My thoughts and prayers, and those of the people of East Belfast are with his wife and three children today.

"There must be no place in our society for anyone who wants to advance their agenda through the bullet or the bomb. Such tactics have been used too many times in the past, achieving nothing except to create pain, grief and suffering. We must all stand united in opposition to terrorism and send out a united message of support to our prison officers who continue to operate in the face of this dissident republican threat."

Ulster Unionist Leader, Mike Nesbitt MLA said: “I am devastated to hear of the death of prison officer Adrian Ismay. My thoughts are with his family and friends and all who put on a uniform to keep us safe. Whatever the exact cause of death, I cannot accept he would be dead if it were not for the bomb.

“Those with knowledge of the perpetrators must come forward. The news has brought a cloud to the St Patrick's celebrations in Washington. I was here 17 years ago when the news broke of the murder of Rosemary Nelson. This is a bitter throwback to dark days. The perpetrators have nothing to offer but a brake on progress. They may slow us down but they cannot stop the journey.”

East Belfast MLA Andy Allen said: “This is devastating news and my heartfelt sympathies are with the Prison Officer’s family. We must ensure that all necessary support and assistance is given to the family at this difficult time.

“The people responsible for this despicable attack must be brought to justice. 

“I would again reiterate that the people responsible do not represent wider society. They cannot and will not be allowed to take this society back to the past.”

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle has the "culture of terror will not be allowed to return".

He said: "My deepest sympathy is with the officer’s wife and loved ones, and my thoughts and prayers are with his colleagues following this devastating and tragic news

“The entire community must show support for our prison officers and others who keep us safe. The vast majority of people will show revulsion for the actions of those behind the attack on this officer. We must redouble our efforts to ensure their culture of terror will not be allowed to return.

“I would again urge anyone with information about the incident which has now claimed a life to contact police immediately and ensure these evil people are brought to justice.”

Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney expressed his sympathy to the family and friends of Mr Ismay.

He said: "This attack was wrong, it will achieve nothing, and was condemned by all sections of society.

"Those responsible for this attack, regardless of what they choose to call themselves, do not speak for or act in the name of the Irish people.

"Their actions serve no purpose whatsoever and will not advance any political aim.

"They will not derail the progress that has been made in the peace process and they need to realise that and end these actions immediately.

"I would appeal for anyone with information on this incident to bring it forward to the PSNI.

The Police Federation of Northern Ireland - which represents rank and file PSNI officers - also expressed sympathy.

Chairman Mark Lindsay added: "Our hearts go out to Adrian Ismay’s family. They will be experiencing the dreadful pain of loss, and I know they will have the support of the extended family circle, Prison Service colleagues and the wider community.

“He was doing an essential job for this entire community when dissident republicans singled him out. The plain and simple truth is that there can never be any justification for such cowardly actions.

“A man’s life is lost for a futile cause and a whole family is plunged into grief.

“There are people who know where the components were sourced for this lethal device, how and where it was assembled and how the officer was targeted and I would appeal to them to help the police to bring the terrorists to justice.

“The murder gang wanted to kill a member of the security forces to as their way of commemorating the Easter Rising, but all they’ve achieved is uniting all right thinking people in their utter revulsion and disgust at their mindless and savage action.

“I would like to renew my appeal to my colleagues in the police, and related services, to exercise maximum vigilance at this most dangerous time.”

Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor said: "In consultation with the lead Catholic Chaplain and the prisons’ chaplaincy team, I was shocked upon receiving the tragic news earlier today of the death of Mr Adrian Ismay. 

"I extend my deepest condolences and my prayerful support to his family in their grief and to his colleagues within the prison service at this extremely difficult time.

"As a society, let us be more determined than ever to work for peace and for the good of each other.  The future of Northern Ireland can only find its foundation in community engagement and political dialogue rather than through the senseless and destructive pursuit of violence."

Irish President Michael D Higgins said his was a "travesty" and that Mr Ismay's family will feel his loss most acutely.

"His death is a travesty to all of us who are committed to the cause of peace in Ireland.

"On behalf of the people of Ireland, I extend my heartfelt sympathy to officer Ismay's family and colleagues."

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