The trial of a west Belfast man accused of the murder of prison officer Adrian Ismay has heard the “major significant factor” to his sudden death from a heart attack was the shrapnel wounds he suffered in a booby-trap bombing 11 days earlier.
Northern Ireland’s former state pathologist, Prof Jack Crane, told the non-jury Diplock-style trial that while the 52-year-old father of two died from a pulmonary embolism, it was caused by a large coiled blood clot blocking the main arterty to the heart and a second clot lodged in the right lung.
The now retired pathologist told Belfast Crown Court that while Mr Ismay suffered a shrapnel wound to his right eye it was a wound to the left calf, behind his knee, which led 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 five cm 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.
Prof Crane said that having survived the blast, caused by an under-vehicle improvised explosive device, on March 4, 2016 outside his Hillsborough Drive home in east Belfast, the prison warder was treated in hospital before being released four days later.
He said that since returning 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 flashbacks, 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 detatchment 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 had contributed to his immobility and in turn a contributing factor in 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.
On trial denying the murder is Christopher Alphonson Robinson, of Aspen Park, in the Poleglass area of west Belfast.
He also denies possession of the booby-trap device, and to providing his sister-in-law’s Citroen C3 car knowing, or suspecting it would be used in terrorism.