VET­ERAN REPUB­LI­CAN IS DEEMED FIT TO FACE CHARGES CON­NECTED TO Mc CONVILLE KILLING

Belfast Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - 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

The con­tin­ued pros­e­cu­tion is likely to ex­ac­er­bate and ac­cel­er­ate his con­di­tion

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.

Ivor Bell at an ear­lier ap­pear­ance, and (be­low) Jean McConville, and mem­bers of her fam­ily ar­rive at court yes­ter­day

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