Adrian Ismay murder: Prison officer joked with wife after booby-trap bomb

Christopher Robinson leaves Laganside Court after the first day of his trial for the murder of Adrian Ismay
Christopher Robinson leaves Laganside Court after the first day of his trial for the murder of Adrian Ismay

Prison officer Adrian Ismay joked with his wife in the immediate aftermath of a booby-trap bomb that was to later claim his life.

Mr Ismay, who died from his injuries 11 days later, told his wife “I don’t think we will go to the rugby tonight” after the no-warning blast outside their Hillsborough Drive home in east Belfast.

Adrian Ismay died 11 days after being injured in the bomb attack

Adrian Ismay died 11 days after being injured in the bomb attack

Belfast Crown Court also heard that the father of three, as if reading his wife’s mind, “wiggled his feet” to show that he had not lost a limb.

The 52-year-old had also instructed those who pulled him from his VW van how to treat and bandage his wounds, the court was told.

The details of the exchange were given yesterday as former St John Ambulance volunteer Christopher Alphonson Robinson went on trial for the March 2016 murder of Mr Ismay, who had worked with him as a volunteer first-aider.

The 48-year-old, from Aspen Park in the Poleglass area of west Belfast, denies the murder of Mr Ismay, who was initially allowed home after treatment for shrapnel wounds caused by the under-car improvised explosive device, which detonated after he drove over a speed ramp.

Christopher Robinson denies the three charges against him

Christopher Robinson denies the three charges against him

But just 11 days later, on March 15, 2016, Mr Ismay was rushed back into hospital where he died from a pulmonary embolism as a result of clotting caused by the blast shrapnel.

However, in the days beforehand, Mr Ismay confirmed in a witness statement that the two men had in the past worked together in St John Ambulance, and that Robinson would have known he was a prison officer.

In a detailed opening before Mr Justice McAlinden, the prosecution told the non-jury Diplock-style trial that Robinson was “part of a joint enterprise” to plant the under-car device, allegedly transported to the area in Robinson’s sister-in-law’s Citroen C3 car.

Robinson allegedly picked up the car keys from the hostel where his brother worked, and the Citroen was captured on CCTV travelling through part of Belfast to the street of the prison warder’s home.

Footage taken from an undertaker’s in the street showed a Citroen car driving by, and then parking up, it headlights off. A man is also seen running and, claims the prosecution, getting “oddly” into the back of the car, behind the driver.

When seized two days later, two child seats were found strapped in the car, one in the front passenger seat, the other on the rear seat immediately behind.

The prosecution further contended, that when all of the “evidence is viewed in the round there is an inescapable inference that Christopher Robinson was involved in the joint enterprise to plant the device under Mr Ismay’s car with the intention of killing or seriously injuring him”.

A senior Crown lawyer said while he “did not seek to ascribe a precise role to him ... we do not have to ... the court may, in due course, be satisfied as to that role .... in that he provided, at the very least, intentional assistance or encouragement to the joint enterprise, to plant the device, cause the explosion and murder Mr Ismay”.

In addition to the murder charge, Robinson also denies causing the explosion which initially injured Mr Ismay.

Robinson also denies a third, alternative count, of providing his sister-in-law’s Citroen C3 car, knowing or suspecting it would be used for the purposes of terrorism.

The court also heard that in the weeks leading up to the booby-trap bombing, and three days before it was planted, Robinson had allegedly looked up the profile of Mr Ismay, who was also a volunteer member of the Community Rescue Service.

It was further claimed that Robinson had also emailed the CRS about volunteering, but failed to attend an arranged meeting in October 2015.

Then in the hours and days following the bombing, he had shown a high level of interest in the attack, visiting a number of internet news sites.

The court also heard that during interviews between March 7 and 11, Robinson provided two prepared statements, and had given no comment answers to the questions asked of him.

The prosecution claim that in the first prepared statement, he’d lied about his movements and whereabouts on the evening of March 3, while in the second he denied being a member of the IRA.

The trial, expected to last several weeks, continues tomorrow.