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Veteran republican faces trial over McConville murder

By David Young

Published 05/06/2015

Ivor Bell outside court yesterday
Ivor Bell outside court yesterday
Jean McConville

The prosecution of a veteran republican accused of involvement in the murder of Jean McConville is set to proceed.

After a number of court extensions to consider their case, prosecutors had been given a final deadline of yesterday to indicate whether they would be pursing the case against Ivor Bell.

A lawyer for the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) ended mounting public uncertainty around the case when he told judge George Connor it would be proceeding.

"A decision has been taken to prosecute," the lawyer said.

Bell (78), from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, was arrested in March last year.

He is charged with aiding and abetting the murder of the widow, who was abducted from her home in west Belfast in 1972. He is further accused of IRA membership.

Bell, wearing a dark grey shirt, sat impassively in the dock of Belfast Magistrates Court during the short hearing.

Two of Mrs McConville's 10 children, Michael and Suzanna, watched the proceedings from the public gallery.

Part of the Crown's case against Bell is based on a tape police secured from an oral history archive collated by Boston College. The college interviewed a series of former paramilitaries on the understanding that their accounts would remain unpublished until after their deaths. But that undertaking was rendered meaningless when the PSNI won a court battle in the United States to secure the recordings.

Detectives claim one of the interviews was given by Bell - a claim the defendant denies

Mother-of-10 Mrs McConville 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 to her murder until 1999, when information was passed to police in the Irish Republic.

She became one of the Disappeared, and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth. No one has been convicted of her murder.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was last year arrested and questioned as part of the police investigation into her death.

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