Belfast Telegraph

Court set to rule on whether Bell will face Disappeared charges

By Michael Donnelly

A final decision on whether or not veteran republican Ivor Malachy Bell will face prosecution on charges arising out of the murder of west Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville, will be made before the end of the month.

A review of the case at Belfast Crown Court heard yesterday that a prosecution-appointed consultant psychiatrist was in agreement with defence experts that the 80-year-old would not be able to fully participate in a trial.

Prosecution QC Ciaran Murphy told Mr Justice Treacy that in light of the agreed conclusions of all the medical reports, the prosecution "are obliged" to review the case and decide if it still met the prosecutorial test.

The lawyer, who successfully applied for a three-week adjournment given the number of "factors" involved, said a "short hearing" could then take place.

Proceedings have faced continuing delays over the state of the pensioner's health and fitness to stand trial. His legal team had previously claimed that experts had diagnosed him as suffering from vascular dementia and said he would not be able to fully participate in his trial.

Bell, from Ramoan Gardens, Andersonstown, has yet to be formally arraigned on the two charges he faces in connection with the IRA's abduction and murder of Mrs McConville from her Divis flat home in west Belfast in December 1972.

The west Belfast man was originally charged with aiding and abetting her murder, and with being a member of the IRA, but they were subsequently amended by the Public Prosecution Service.

The charges he now faces firstly claim that "on a date unknown between October 31, 1972 and January 1, 1973 he encouraged persons not before the court to murder Jean McConville", while the second accuses him of having "endeavoured to persuade persons" to carry out the murder.

Mrs McConville (37) was seized from home in front of her children after being wrongly accused of being a British Army informant. She was shot dead and secretly buried, becoming one of the Disappeared. The IRA admitted her murder in 1999. Her body was found near Templetown Beach in Co Louth in 2003.

Part of the case against Bell is allegedly based on the content of tapes police secured from an oral history of the Troubles, put together by Boston College. The PSNI won a court battle in the US to gain access to some of the tapes, which had been recorded on the premise they would remain unpublished until after the deaths of those taking part.

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