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  1. ITV Report

Prison officer ‘never had cross words’ with murder accused

Adrian Ismay died 11 days after a bomb exploded under his van in 2016. Credit: Family photo

A prison officer killed by a booby-trap bomb under his van in east Belfast told police before his death that he had “never had cross words” with the man later accused of his murder.

Adrian Ismay died 11 days after the explosion on 4 March 2016, which happened as he was driving from his home in the Cregagh area of the city.

The 52-year-old father-of-three had volunteered with St John’s Ambulance for around four years at the same time as west Belfast man Christopher Robinson, who is on trial at Belfast Crown Court.

Robinson, 48 and from Aspen Park in Twinbrook, is charged with murdering Mr Ismay, possessing an improvised explosive device, and providing money or property for the purposes of terrorism.

Three days after the bomb exploded, police investigating the incident interviewed Mr Ismay as he lay injured in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital.

From his hospital bed, Mr Ismay gave a statement confirming that he knew Christopher Robinson.

I have been in the prison service for approximately 29 years, so I am pretty certain he would have been aware of my career.

– Adrian Ismay, speaking to police in hospital in March 2016

He described his former fellow volunteer physically and said he spoke with a west Belfast accent.

Mr Ismay told police: “The last time I seen him was more than two years ago when I worked for St John’s Ambulance based at Saintfield Road in Belfast.

“We both worked there as volunteers. I solely knew him on a work basis and never socialised with him. He had never been to my home and I had never been to his.”

He added: “During the three to four years that I worked along with him, we never had cross words, we never had any run-ins, we actually got on well.

“We never discussed any topics to do with religion or politics.”

The non-jury Diplock trial heard Mr Ismay had applied to become a volunteer with St John’s Ambulance in March 1998, with Robinson applying in February 2010.

It also emerged that Mr Ismay was “involved” in Robinson’s application process “on behalf of” the organisation.

Tuesday’s sitting also heard from Governor of the Northern Ireland Prison Service Mark Patterson.

In a statement, Mr Watterson confirmed that Mr Ismay joined the Prison Service in September 1987 and that he worked in the Maze before being transferred to Hydebank Young Offenders’ Centre in August 1994.

Mr Ismay was promoted in July 2014 and transferred to the Prison Service Training College in Millisle, where he acted as a tutor for others.

In his statement, Mr Watterson said Mr Ismay had never been posted to HMP Maghaberry, or been involved in training in Roe House - the dissident wing at the prison.

The trial continues.