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Decision day looms for Jean McConville murder accused

Published 05/07/2016

Jean McConville was dragged from her home and murdered over suspicions she was passing information to the British Army
Jean McConville was dragged from her home and murdered over suspicions she was passing information to the British Army

A veteran republican will find out on Thursday whether he is to stand trial for involvement in the notorious IRA murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville, a judge has said.

Ivor Bell, 79, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, is charged with aiding and abetting the kidnap, killing and secret burial of the widow in 1972.

He is further charged with membership of the IRA. He denies all the charges.

A preliminary inquiry was held before a district judge last week to establish whether the evidence was of sufficient strength to proceed to trial at crown court.

On Tuesday, District Judge Amanda Henderson told Belfast Magistrates' Court that she had made a decision and would inform the defendant at a hearing in the same court on Thursday.

"I've had a chance to read through all the various depositions," she said.

"So could the defendant be here on Thursday. It's for decision."

Mrs McConville was dragged from her home in Belfast's Divis flats by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army - an allegation later discredited by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home. The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed to police in the Irish Republic.

Mrs McConville became one of the 'Disappeared' victims of the Troubles and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth, by a member of the public.

Nobody has been convicted of her murder.

Part of the case against Bell is based on a tape police secured from an oral history archive collated by Boston College in the US.

Academics interviewed a series of former republican and loyalist paramilitaries for their Belfast Project on the understanding the accounts of the Troubles would remain unpublished until their deaths.

But that undertaking was rendered meaningless when the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) won a court battle in the US to secure the recordings.

It is alleged one of the interviews was given by Bell - a claim the defendant denies.

Bell was not in court for Tuesday's brief hearing.

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