1. ITV Report

Witness refuses to give evidence at Ismay murder trial

Prison officer Adrian Ismay died 11 days after a bomb exploded under his van in east Belfast. Credit: Family photo

A witness - the brother of a man on trial for murdering a prison officer - has refused to answer questions in case he incriminates himself.

Christopher Robinson, 48 and from Aspen Park in Poleglass, is being tried at Belfast Crown Court over the murder of Adrian Ismay, who died in March 2016 after a bomb exploded under his van close to his east Belfast home.

The accused’s brother Peter Robinson was due to give evidence earlier in the trial, but failed to attend citing medical reasons.

That led Mr Justice McAlinden to order that he attend or an arrest warrant would be issued.

At the time of the murder, Peter Robinson worked at a youth hostel in west Belfast and was due to answer questions about claims he disabled the CCTV system there the night before the bomb exploded and told a colleague his brother would be calling in.

It is the Crown’s case that a red Citroen C3 containing the bomb was driven by Christopher Robinson to Mr Ismay’s Hillsborough Drive home - the same make and model Peter Robinson drove to work hours before the device exploded.

Christopher Robinson has been charged with murdering Mr Ismay, possessing an improvised explosive device, and providing money or property for the purposes of terrorism.

He has denied all the charges against him.

On Monday, just before Peter Robinson was called to the witness box, his barrister revealed that in the aftermath of the murder, his client was arrested and questioned and was therefore a suspect.

The barrister said that over a five-day period in March 2016, Peter Robinson was interviewed 13 times under caution. He was then re-arrested in February 2017 and interviewed six times.

The barrister further said Peter Robinson “refused to answer any questions other than to state his name and address” and that he “provided to police a pre-prepared statement through his solicitor”.

The barrister said the questions put to Peter Robinson during these interviews included:

  • lending his vehicle, which the Crown allege was involved in the murder
  • turning off CCTV at the hostel when the car was allegedly borrowed and returned
  • deletion of text messages between him and “another person”
  • removal of “relevant evidence” from the car

The barrister said that, as his client was questioned about being compliant and as a suspect, it was his right not to incriminate himself and he could therefore invoke the privilege not to answer questions as a witness.

Peter Robinson was then called to give evidence and, after swearing on the Bible, he was advised of his right not to incriminate himself by Mr Justice McAlinden.

The judge told him that if there was a question asked that ran the risk of prosecution, or increased the risk of prosecution, he had a right not to answer that question.

A Crown barrister then posed a series of questions to Mr Robinson, none of which he answered.

The first question he was asked was: “Did you make and sign a prepared statement in the course of your interviews with police in respect of these proceedings.”

He replied: “I am going to decline answering on the basis of not incriminating myself.”

Peter Robinson was then asked: “Did you tell the truth in that statement?”

He responded: “I will decline to answer for the same reasons.”

When he was asked by the Crown barrister if there was “any reason why you do not wish to answer my questions?”, the witness said: “I am going to decline to answer for the same reasons.”

The fourth and final question posed by the Crown to Peter Robinson was: “Aside from risk, would you otherwise wish to give evidence?”, to which he said: “I decline to answer for the same reason.”

The prosecutor said he had no further questions, and added that the Crown intended to rely on the statement given to police.

The trial continues.