Belfast Telegraph

Provo chief Ivor Bell told kidnap gang that being a woman shouldn't save 'informer' Jean McConville, court hears

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

A former IRA commander told a fellow paramilitary he had no problem with shooting a so-called informer when asked for his advice on what a terror gang should do with Jean McConville, the High Court was told

The court heard Ivor Bell advised one of those holding Mrs McConville captive she should not be spared just because she was a woman.

It was alleged by the prosecution Bell told the fellow IRA member he had no qualms about shooting "touts", particularly those, he claimed, who were being paid for information.

The prosecution said the comments were made during a meeting in the kitchen of a Falls Road house shortly before Mrs McConville was shot in the back of the head.

Bell was granted bail yesterday on a number of conditions, including the putting up of two sureties of £10,000 by friends – one in cash and the other against the deeds of a property.

The 77-year-old was instructed to pay £500 bail, surrender his passport and report to a police station three times each week.

He is charged with aiding and abetting the murder of the mother-of-10 in 1972.

The accused, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast, was arrested last week.

He denies any role in the abduction or murder of Mrs McConville.

Bell appeared via video-link from Maghaberry Prison yesterday morning.

The case against him is based on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers at a US college.

Several former paramilitaries were interviewed about their roles in the Northern Ireland conflict as part of a project undertaken by Boston College.

Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, last year a US court ordered that the tapes be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville's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

She was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972, shot dead and then secretly buried.

The court was told one of the Boston interviewees, given the title 'Z', spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her.

Based on jigsaw identification, the prosecution alleged that this person was Bell.

Mr Justice Weir was told Bell was approached as a senior member of the organisation and asked for his advice on what to do with the 37-year-old mother, having been informed of the allegations against her.

Prosecution counsel David Russell said: "He (Bell) indicates that he told the other person: 'Well, she's a tout, and the fact she's a woman shouldn't save her'."

The judge was told the information on the tapes suggested Bell would have decided upon another course of action had he known Mrs McConville was a mother-of-10, and that the children's father was dead.

It was claimed in court that women in the area would have been told to drive her out.

'Z' also allegedly stated that informers' bodies should not be buried, rather dumped in the open as a warning to others.

The pensioner, who has serious health problems, told detectives he did not believe he was in Belfast around the time Jean McConville was murdered.

Asked how long it could take before the case gets to trial, Mr Russell accepted it was unlikely to be "fast-tracked".

He added: "It's clear that there are other inquiries being made, and I don't wish to put it any higher than that."

BACKGROUND

Jean McConville was among 17 people abducted, killed and secretly buried by republican paramilitaries during the Troubles.

Members of the IRA claimed some of the victims had "informed" on their activities to the authorities.

Mrs McConville (37) was killed after she went to the aid of a wounded British soldier outside her home in west Belfast's Divis flats in 1972. The IRA claimed she was an informer.

Her remains were finally found at Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth in the Republic in August 2003.

Accused freed as he agrees to judge's bail terms

More than 40 years on, the children of Jean McConville sat side-by-side with the family of a former IRA leader accused of involvement in her murder.

Police officers also sat in the public gallery of Belfast High Court during Ivor Bell's bail application yesterday, but there was never any hint of tensions or emotions spilling over.

Outside, around 20 supporters of Bell protested throughout the hearing, some holding placards calling for an end to 'Political Policing', and 'Internment By Remand'.

Those in the court spoke quietly among themselves as a clerk requested prison staff at Maghaberry produce Bell for the hearing.

Some five minutes later the frail-looking pensioner settled into a seat in front of the camera.

White-haired and sporting his distinctive moustache, Bell (77) spoke to confirm his name.

Setting out the charge against him, prosecution counsel David Russell said: "The prosecution case is he counselled those who had her in captivity and in doing so he encouraged her murder."

Opposing bail due to fears he may flee, the prosecution claimed he used an alias to travel to Madrid in the 1980s.

Defence counsel Barry Macdonald QC rejected those concerns, pointing to his extensive medical problems.

There was a rare light moment during proceedings when a judge engaged one of those who had put forward a £10,000 surety on behalf of Bell.

The court was told the man had a string of previous convictions, including motoring offences.

Asked by the judge if he was the man with the four bald tyres, Bell's friend replied "unfortunately so" to ripples of laughter from most of those in the public gallery.

The judge agreed to release the veteran republican on bail, then put the conditions of that bail to Bell.

He added: "If I release you on bail do you promise me you will keep to your bail conditions?"

Bell replied: "You have my word, my lord."

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