Man appears in court over attempted murder of prison officer in Belfast

Sunday 13 March 2016 09.19
The explosion occurred off the Woodstock Road in the east of Belfast on 4 March
The explosion occurred off the Woodstock Road in the east of Belfast on 4 March

A man has appeared in court charged with attempting to murder a prison officer in Northern Ireland. 

Christopher Alphonsos Robinson, 45, yawned in court as he was accused of the east Belfast bombing on 4 March.

Heavily armed riot police stood between a crowd of his supporters and the main body of the city centre court room.

The victim, a married father-of-three aged 52, required surgery after an explosive device detonated under the van he was driving.

Mr Robinson, from Aspen Park in Dunmurry in west Belfast, was charged after undergoing 16 interviews, his lawyer told the courtroom.

He said "no evidence was actually put" to the defendant to link him to the attack.

The suspect was also accused of possession of an explosive with the intention to endanger life.

No bail application was made and he was remanded in custody by district judge Harry McKibbin after a detective sergeant connected him to the charges.

A sizeable group of his friends applauded him and jeered at the judge at Belfast Magistrates' Court as the defendant was led away.

A group of public order police officers stood around the courtroom and in the public gallery.

Robinson remained sitting as the charges were read to him.

A group calling itself 'the New IRA' claimed to have carried out the attack.

Following the blast, police commanders expressed fears that it could be the first of a number of dissident republican attacks to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising when Ireland rebelled against British rule.

The accused is due to appear via video link before the same court on Friday 1 April for a review hearing.