Northern Ireland news

Brother of murder accused appears in court

Christopher Robinson at Belfast Crown Court.Picture by Alan Lewis

THE brother of a man accused of murdering a prison officer attended court yesterday following an order from a senior judge - but was not called to give evidence.

Peter Robinson - the brother of accused Christopher Robinson - was due to give evidence last week at the trial into the murder of Adrian Ismay, but failed to attend.

At the time of the murder in March 2016, Peter Robinson worked at a youth hostel in west Belfast and was due to answer questions about claims he disabled the CCTV system the night before the bomb exploded and told a colleague 'our Christy is calling.'

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

The 52-year-old father-of-three died 11 days after a bomb detonated under his blue Volkswagen van on the morning of March 4, 2016 as he was driving from his home in the Cregagh area of Belfast.

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. Several colleagues of Peter Robinson have already given evidence to say they saw him arriving at the hostel for his shift on March 3 in a red Citroen C3.

Yesterday at Belfast Crown Court, when trial judge Mr Justice McAlinden asked if Peter Robinson had turned up, he was told by a barrister representing the witness "he has attended today."

The judge granted the legal team for Peter Robinson more time before he gives evidence.

This came after a lawyer for Mr Robinson requested his client's original police transcripts.

His lawyer also said that once the transcripts had been viewed, he would be giving his client advice on his rights regarding giving evidence.

Also at yesterday's non-jury hearing, a senior technical officer who specialises in forensic collision investigations and imagery comparisons gave evidence.

He confirmed he was asked to view CCTV footage and stills of vehicles taken from various locations in Belfast in the aftermath of the murder. He also confirmed he was asked to look for common features between vehicles in the CCTV footage and a Citroen C3.

The forensics officer viewed footage from numerous cameras across the city - including Stranmillis and a funeral home on the Cregagh Road close to where the bomb exploded.

When asked about the conclusion he came to, the forensic officer said the presence of common features "lends support that the vehicle seen in these images had certain characteristics of a Citroen C3."

Under cross-examination the forensic officer was asked if, when compiling his report, he had compared the Citroen with other similar vehicles, to which he replied "no".

And when asked if these common features were also present on other models of cars similar to the Citroen C3, he replied "yes."

Another Crown witness - an expert in cell site analysis and a forensic mobile phone examiner - was called to the dock and questioned about a report he was asked to compile.

The expert revealed his report was on the location of a mobile phone attributed to Christopher Robinson over a period from 8pm on March 3, 2016 to 3.30am the following morning.

He said that after examining network readings from masts, he could place Robinson's phone at several locations during the period in question - including his home address in Dunmurry at 8.10pm on March 3, and the hostel where his brother worked, between 9.22pm that evening and 2.40am on March 4.

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