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McConville accused to learn if he faces trial over notorious killing

By David Young

Veteran republican Ivor Bell will find out tomorrow if he will stand trial over the death of mother-of-10 Jean McConville, a judge said yesterday.

The 79-year-old, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, is charged with aiding and abetting the kidnap, killing and secret burial of the widow in 1972, and with membership of the IRA. He denies all the charges.

A preliminary inquiry was held before a district judge last week to establish whether the evidence against the defendant was strong enough for the case to proceed to crown court.

Yesterday, District Judge Amanda Henderson told Belfast Magistrates' Court she had made a decision and would inform Bell of it in court tomorrow.

"I've had a chance to read through all the various depositions," she added, "so could the defendant be here on Thursday? It's for a decision."

Mrs McConville was dragged from her home in Belfast's Divis flats by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army - an allegation that was later discredited by the 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 of the Troubles, and it was not until 2003 that her remains were found on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth by a passer-by. No one has been convicted over her death.

Part of the case against Bell is based on a tape that the police secured from a oral history archive collated by Boston College in the US.

Academics interviewed former republican and loyalist paramilitaries for their project on the understanding that their testimonies would remain secret until after their deaths.

But that undertaking was rendered meaningless when the Police Service of Northern Ireland won a court battle in the US to secure the recordings.

It is alleged one of the interviews was given by Bell - a claim that he denies.

Bell was not in court for yesterday's brief hearing.

Belfast Telegraph


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