"I'll see you in court too, Gerry Adams” — that’s the vow from a daughter of IRA Disappeared murder victim Jean McConville yesterday.
Helen McKendry expressed her hope of seeing the Sinn Fein boss in the dock as a veteran republican was refused bail after being charged over her mum’s abduction and murder.
Ex-IRA chief Ivor Bell, 77, is the first person to appear in court accused of involvement in the December 1972 murder.
It emerged that his arrest was based on recorded interviews — known as the Boston College tapes — that he gave to researchers.
A PSNI detective claimed the tapes indicated Bell had “played a critical role in the aiding, abetting, counsel and procurement of the murder of Jean McConville”.
Bell was part of an IRA delegation — alongside Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness — who had secret talks with the British government back in 1972.
Yesterday at Belfast Magistrates Court, the grey-haired father of three was charged with aiding and abetting those who killed the defenceless mother of ten.
Bell, who lives in Andersonstown, west Belfast was also charged with PIRA membership at the time of the murder.
Wearing a casual grey jacket top, the mustachioed grandfather only spoke to confirm that he understood the charges.He sat impassively through the hour-long hearing — only raising his arm to acknowledge family and friends waving at him from the public gallery.
In an interview with Sunday Life, one of Jean McConville’s daughters described the proceedings as “a start in the right direction”.
She expressed the hope that the charging of Bell will be followed by the arrest of others — including Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, who has repeatedly denied any connection to Jean McConville’s death or to ever being a member of the IRA.
McKendry said: “He (Ivor Bell) stared at me and he should thank his friend Gerry Adams, if you ask me.”
She added that she also wanted to see Adams appear in court charged in connection with the case.
“Yes, he should and that is what I aim for,” said Mrs McKendry.
Asked if she believed more prosecutions could happen, she added: “I do, yes because there wasn’t just the one person involved in my mother’s murder. There were quite a few. There are people out there still alive today who know what happened.
“People have the right to know what happened. We need to have some sort of justice for our loved ones.”
During yesterday’s proceedings, the validity of the ‘Boston tapes’ — an archive of Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’- related interviews — was questioned by Bell’s solicitor.
Peter Corrigan said that a man codenamed ‘Mr Z’, who he said the prosecution claim is Bell, had denied involvement in the murder: “Mr Z clearly said in these transcripts: ‘I had nothing to do with Jean McConville’s murder’.”
The solicitor said Bell suffered from serious health problems including two heart attacks in 2003 and 2006. He said Bell had an “angina attack” during police questioning at Antrim last week and that he also lives with bowel and arthritis problems.
Mr Corrigan revealed that a local businessman — present in court yesterday — had pledged a surety of £200,000 to help |secure Bell’s release on bail.
He added: “He (Bell) has every incentive to attend court to prove his innocence. Are the prosecution seriously suggesting that a man in this serious ill health who can’t walk up steps is going to abscond for an offence where he has every incentive to attend court?”
Mr Corrigan added that Bell had left the IRA in 1985.
PSNI Detective Inspector Sossick claimed there was a “real risk” of Bell absconding from Northern Ireland.
“The IRA has an all-Ireland network and I have no doubt that he could flee this jurisdiction”, he said.
He revealed that the former Maze internee had twice been involved in escaping or helping others to escape from jail in 1974.
District Judge Amanda Henderson said she was persuaded by the prosecution in this case to refuse bail and remanded Bell in custody to appear in court again by |videolink on April 11. Relatives of Jean McConville including her sons, Michael and James and grandchildren, Sean and Sinead McKendry, were in court for the historic proceedings.
Speaking to Sunday Life minutes after Bell was refused bail, Helen McKendry said: “Let’s hope this leads somewhere.
“It was very emotional for me when his solicitor talked about him and his family, his children and grandchildren.
“Jean McConville’s grandchildren were sitting behind me. They never got to know their grandmother.”
“His solicitor was talking about this man’s ill health. He would have been the same age as my mother at the time. She never got to live. He is 40 years more down the road than she got.
“If he has ill health now, that is his problem, not mine,” she added.
Widow Jean McConville was dragged out of her Divis Flats home in front of her petrified children in December 1972.
The IRA claimed that the Protestant mum had been an informer but this claim was formally rejected in a Police Ombudsman office report in 2006. Mrs McConville’s body was found on a Louth beach in 2003 after a walker spotted a piece of her tweed coat poking out of the sand. She had been shot in the head.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was accused by now dead IRA members Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price of directly ordering Mrs McConville’s death.
But in the 2013 BBC TV documentary The Disappeared, Adams said: “I had no part to play in either the abduction, the killing, or the burial of Jean McConville or indeed any of these other individuals.”
Gerry Adams named in tapes
Several ex-IRA members made a series of recorded confessions as part of the controversial Boston College project in which they talked about their lives as paramilitaries.
They believed none would be made public until after their deaths.
After journalist Ed Moloney wrote a 2010 book, ‘Voices from the Grave’, and made a TV documentary based on these testimonies, the family of Jean McConville launched a fresh complaint with police.
They were stunned to read that veteran IRA members Brendan Hughes and later Dolours Price, both of whom are now dead, named Gerry Adams as giving the order to murder their mother.
Acting on the McConville complaint, the PSNI used an international treaty between Britain and the US to access the recordings, which are stored at Boston College.
The handover of some of the tapes was completed last year, giving detectives a treasure trove of information about the McConville killing and other IRA operations.
Having possession of this invaluable information, which came straight from the mouths of IRA icons like Hughes and Price, they arrested Ivor Bell.
In court yesterday it was suggested that the pensioner has also made a tape in which he may have incriminated himself.
In his recording lodged with Boston College, Brendan Hughes said of Ivor Bell: “I know one particular person on the Belfast brigade at the time, Ivor [Bell] argued for [Jean McConville] to be shot, yes, but to be left on the street. Because to take her away and bury her would serve no purpose, people wouldn’t know.”