A murder inquiry has been launched into the death of prison officer Adrian Ismay who died 11 days after a booby trapped bomb exploded underneath his van. The responsibility for the explosion, detonated in east Belfast, has been claimed by the dissident republican organisation known as the new IRA.
The father-of-three, who lived in Belfast, survived the initial blast of the device on 4 March with leg injuries and was discharged from hospital when his health improved. But on 15 March he was rushed back to hospital when he suffered from a suspected heart attack.
Following his death and subsequent post mortem examination, detectives from the Serious Crime Branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have launched a murder investigation. The PSNI say that the post mortem concluded that the 52-year-old died as a direct result of the injuries sustained during the explosion.
The New IRA said they were targeting training officers working at the Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn, County Antrim when they exploded the device. So far one suspect has been charged with possessing an improvised explosive device with intent to endanger life and attempted murder.
Christopher Alphonsos Robinson, 45, of Aspen Park in Dunmurry, County Antrim, appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court on 12 March. Robinson will reappear at the same court on 1 April via video-link after being remanded in custody, and his charge may be boosted to murder.
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector Richard Campbell said following the announcement: "Today is yet another difficult day for the Ismay family, his friends and colleagues as they struggle to come to terms with the events of the past 12 days.
"We have spoken to the family this morning and advised them of this development. We are also liaising with the Public Prosecution Service in relation to the individual who is currently charged with attempted murder and causing an explosion with intent to endanger life."
Sue McAllister, director general of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, spent time with the Ismay family on 15 March. She said the family was: "devastated and beyond shock at what's happened".
"Like all of us, they thought that he was on the mend and was doing really well," McAllister told the BBC. "We thought he would make a full recovery, we expected him to come back to work in due course, so we're all shocked, but particularly Sharon and her daughters."
Detectives have appealed for information on two cars that police believe may have been used by the bombers. They include a red Citroen C3 which is believed to have been used by those planting the device in the early hours of 4 March.
The second car is a silver Skoda Fabia which is believed to have been used before and after the incident by those involved. The car was seen in the Pilot Street in the Docks area of Belfast. Anyone who may have any information should contact the PSNI on the non-emergency number 101 or on Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.