Belfast Telegraph

Republican Bell (80) faces trial linked to McConville murder despite diagnosis of dementia

By John Cassidy

Prosecutors are to go ahead with a case against a veteran republican charged in connection with the murder of Jean McConville, a court has heard.

Ivor Bell has been diagnosed with vascular dementia by medical experts.

Defence lawyers have argued that Bell is not fit to be arraigned on two charges of soliciting Mrs McConville's murder over 40 years ago.

At Belfast Crown Court yesterday prosecution counsel Ciaran Murphy QC told Mr Justice Colton that a review of the case had been carried out by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

He said prosecutors now "intend to proceed" with the case against Bell (80), of Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast.

Defence barrister Desmond Hutton told the judge that the decision by the PPS to continue with the prosecution was "oppressive".

"Mr Bell has not been arraigned because of his health after he was diagnosed as suffering from dementia," Mr Hutton explained.

"He is significantly unable to partake in the trial process. The continued prosecution is likely to exacerbate and accelerate his condition.

"We received only yesterday a letter from the Crown to indicate that following a review the Crown consider that the test for prosecution was met.

"We do feel that that is an oppressive position to take in the circumstances."

The barrister told Mr Justice Hutton that given the Crown's position, the defence would now be making an "abuse of process application" to have the case against Bell dismissed given his ongoing medical condition.

Mr Justice Colton listed the abuse of process application hearing for November 13.

The defence are to lodge an application next week to have Bell's bail conditions relaxed.

Bell, who will be 81 this December, was not in court yesterday for the review hearing.

The first charge he faces states that "on a date unknown between the 31st day of October 1972 and the 1st day of January 1973 he encouraged persons not before the court to murder Jean McConville".

The second count states that "on a date unknown between the 31st day of October 1972 and the 1st day of January 1973, he endeavoured to persuade persons not before the court to murder Jean McConville".

The defendant was originally charged with aiding and abetting the murder, and with being a member of the IRA, but the charges were subsequently amended by the PPS.

Mrs McConville, a 37-year-old widow, was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in December 1972 in front of her children after being wrongly accused of being an Army informant. Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried, becoming one of the 'Disappeared' victims of the Troubles.

In 1999 the IRA admitted the murder when information was passed to police in the Irish Republic.

Mrs McConville's body was found near Templetown Beach in Co Louth in 2003.

She had been killed by a single gunshot wound to the back of the head, post-mortem examinations revealed. Part of the case against Bell is based on the content of tapes police secured from an oral history of the Troubles put together by Boston College in the US.

The PSNI won a court battle in the US to gain access to some of the recordings, which had been recorded on the premise they would remain unpublished until after the deaths of those taking part.

One of the interviews was allegedly given by Bell - a claim the defendant denies - and he was first charged in March 2014.

Belfast Telegraph


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