Man accused of prison officer murder faces September trial

A 48-year-old Co Antrim man is to go in trial in September for his alleged involvement in the car-bomb murder of 52-year-old prison officer Adrian Ismay in Belfast.

On Friday during a short hearing before Belfast Crown Court, Christopher Alphonos Robinson from Aspen Park, Dunmurry, pleaded not guilty to the murder of the father-of-three who died in hospital 11 days after a bomb partially exploded under his van two years ago this month.

Mr Justice Colton had offered the prosecution and defence April 30 as a possible start date for non-jury trial of Robinson who also denied causing the explosion on March 4, 2016 and to providing a Citroen C3 car, knowing or suspecting it “might be used for the purposes of terrorism”.

However, both sets of lawyers agreed that it was unlikely the trial, expected to last five weeks given the complexity of the forensic evidence involved, could begin then.

Mr Justice Colton, who released Robinson on continuing bail, set the trial date for the beginning of the Crown Court term in September following the summer recess.

No details surrounding the murder of Mr Ismay were given, however at the time it was reported that he had driving on Hillsborough Drive off the Woodstock Road, just a short distance from his home, when the bomb 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 Northern Ireland Prison Service.

Although he appeared after surgery to make a recovery, he later reportedly died from a suspected heart attack.