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Sunday 18 March 2018

Veteran republican will stand trial in McConville murder case

Ivor Bell leaves Belfast Magistrates’ Court yesterday Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Ivor Bell leaves Belfast Magistrates’ Court yesterday Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Lesley-Anne McKeown

Veteran republican Ivor Bell will stand trial for involvement in the 1972 killing of mother-of-10 Jean McConville, a judge in Northern Ireland has ruled.

Bell (79), from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, is charged with two counts of soliciting the widow's murder. He appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court, where he was told that the high-profile case would proceed to the Crown Court.

District Judge Amanda Henderson said: "There is a case to answer at this stage." Bell denies all the charges against him.

He 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 Public Prosecution Service.

The judge's decision followed a two-day preliminary inquiry last week. She said she was "satisfied" that the strength of the evidence was sufficient to meet the threshold to return the accused for trial.

Bell stood in the dock beside a prison guard.

He replied "no" when asked if he had any response.

Mrs McConville (37) was dragged from her home in Belfast's Divis flats complex by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women in late 1972.

She was accused of passing information to the British army, an allegation that was later discredited by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

The widow was shot in the back of the head and secretly buried 50 miles from her home, becoming one of the 'Disappeared' victims of the conflict. It was not until 1999 that the IRA admitted the murder, when information was passed to gardaí.

Her remains were found on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth by a member of the public in August 2003. Nobody has been convicted of her murder.

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

It is alleged that one of the interviews was given by Bell - a claim he denies - and he was first charged in March 2014. He was released on continuing bail.

Defence barrister Dessie Hutton told the judge there would be a request for legal aid. A trial date has yet to be confirmed.

Irish Independent

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