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Trial decision due in case of republican charged with aiding McConville murder

Published 29/06/2016

Ivor Bell is charged with aiding and abetting the kidnap, killing and secret burial of Jean McConville in 1972
Ivor Bell is charged with aiding and abetting the kidnap, killing and secret burial of Jean McConville in 1972

A decision on whether a veteran republican should stand trial for involvement in the murder of a mother-of-10, could be made next week, a court has heard.

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

He is further charged with membership of the IRA.

District Judge Amanda Henderson told Belfast Magistrates she would consider whether the evidence, heard during a two day preliminary enquiry, was strong enough to return the accused for trial.

The judge said: "There have been lengthy enough submissions made.

"I will try to get a decision through by next Thursday (July 7).

"If the defendant is to be returned for trial then arrangements can be made."

Mrs McConville, a widow, was dragged from her home in the Divis flats by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army in Belfast - an allegation 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 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 for her murder, one of the most notorious of the region's bloody Troubles.

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

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and loyalist paramilitaries for their Belfast Project on the understanding the accounts of the Troubles would remain unpublished until their deaths.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.

Throughout proceedings, grey-haired mustachioed Bell, who was prosecuted in 2014 and denies all charges, sat in the dock beside a single prison guard, listening impassively. He was dressed in a dark coat and dark shirt.

Just a few feet away, in the public gallery, were members of the McConville family including some of the widow's children who have spearheaded a lengthy campaign for justice.

The case was adjourned for mention on July 5.

The McConville family declined to speak outside court.

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