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Jean McConville murder: Republican Ivor Bell will find out in October if he is to stand trial

By Alan Erwin

Published 30/07/2015

Ivor Bell outside court
Ivor Bell outside court
Jean McConville

A veteran republican charged in connection with the killing of Disappeared victim Jean McConville is set to discover in October if he will stand trial.

Ivor Bell, 78, is currently charged with aiding and abetting the mother-of-ten's murder, and membership of the IRA.

At Belfast Magistrates' Court today District Judge George Conner provisionally listed a preliminary enquiry hearing for October 22.

Those proceedings will establish if the case will advance to a full trial.

Judge Conner said: "It's a case of public importance. I think we need to be pushing this forward."

Mrs McConville was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972 after being wrongly accused of being an informer.

Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried.

Her body was discovered on a Co Louth beach in 2003.

Bell, 78, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast, was arrested and charged in March last year.

The case against him centres on an interview he allegedly gave to US researchers from Boston College who interviewed several former paramilitaries about their roles in the Northern Ireland conflict.

Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville's killing.

It is alleged that Bell is one of the Boston interviewees, given the title Z, who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her.

A voice analyst has been enlisted as part of the case.

The accused - who is currently on bail - denies any role in events surrounding the murder, claiming he was not even in the city at the time.

He was not present in court today as a prosecution lawyer requested another four weeks to prepare the case.

John O'Neill also confirmed further correspondence is set to take place with authorities in America and the Irish Repubic to seek their consent on "procedural matters" connected to the charges.

But Mr Bell's solicitor renewed his attack on the prosecution, claimed there had been undue delay in the case.

Peter Corrigan also argued that the Boston College project was seriously flawed.

"It had no oversight and it wouldn't even reach the standard for academic (purposes), never mind for evidence," he told the court.

"Our point here is this case should be discontinued."

Mr Corrigan also urged the judge not to allow any further delays.

"My client is very elderly, this happened such a long time ago and there should be an expedited committal and trial in this matter."

With the preliminary enquiry now provisionally set for October, a further review is to take place in four weeks time.

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