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Ivor Bell's bail relaxed to accommodate holiday ahead of McConville trial


Ivor Bell faces two counts of soliciting Jean McConville's killing in 1972

Ivor Bell faces two counts of soliciting Jean McConville's killing in 1972

Ivor Bell faces two counts of soliciting Jean McConville's killing in 1972

A veteran republican charged in connection with the IRA murder of a mother-of-10 has had his bail conditions relaxed so he can celebrate his wedding anniversary.

Ivor Bell, 79, faces two counts of soliciting Jean McConville's killing in 1972.

At a hearing at Belfast Crown Court it emerged he wanted to spend a week in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, with his wife to mark their anniversary later this month.

A prosecution barrister said a proposed address had been assessed by police who raised no objections to temporarily varying bail conditions which require Bell to report weekly and inform the authorities if he intends to leave the jurisdiction.

However, the PPS did request that two sureties of £10,000 be re-signed.

Agreeing to the changes, Judge Seamus Treacy said: "I'll vary the bail in the manner that has been agreed and require the two sureties and Mr Bell to re-sign."

Meanwhile, the court was also told that me dical experts have yet to examine Bell to determine whether he is fit to plead.

Defence barrister Desmond Hutton said an appointment had been secured with a Dublin-based professor next month.

He said: "My instructing solicitors have been seeking to secure a proper expert.

"That takes longer than one thinks."

The lawyer said details of the high-profile case as well as Bell's full GP notes and records had been sent to the expert.

However, the professor has also requested a psychiatric assessment from a team of speciality consultants currently working with him, the court heard.

"There is an appointment scheduled for November 12 and we anticipate a report would come very soon after that," added Mr Hutton.

Throughout the brief hearing, white-haired, moustachioed Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, sat in the public gallery supported by friends and relatives.

His lawyers have made clear the pensioner denies the offences at previous hearings.

Mrs McConville, a 37-year-old mother was dragged from her home in Belfast's Divis flats complex by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women, accused of passing information to the British Army - an allegation later discredited by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

She was shot in the back of the head and secretly buried 50 miles from her home, becoming one of the "Disappeared" victims of the Troubles.

It was not until 1999 that the IRA admitted the murder when information was passed to police in the Irish Republic.

Her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth by a member of the public in August 2003.

Nobody has been convicted of her murder.

The case against Bell is based on the content of tapes police secured from an oral history archive collated by Boston College in the United States.

Academics interviewed a series of former republican and loyalist paramilitaries for their Belfast Project on the understanding that the accounts of the Troubles would remain unpublished until their deaths.

But that undertaking was rendered meaningless when Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) detectives investigating Mrs McConville's death won a court battle in the US to secure the recordings.

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

The case has been adjourned for further review on November 18.