Ivor Bell ‘cannot fully participate in Jean McConville trial’

Ivor Bell
Ivor Bell

A final decision on whether or not veteran republican Ivor Malachy Bell will face prosecution on charges arising out of the murder of disappeared Jean McConville, will be made before the end of the month.

A review of the case at Belfast Crown Court heard today a prosecution appointed consultant psychiatrist was in agreement with defence experts that the 80-year-old would not be able to fully participate in a trial.

Prosecution QC Ciaran Murphy told Mr Justice Treacy that in light of the agreed conclusions of all the medical reports, the prosecution “are obliged” to review the case and decide if it still met “the prosecutorial test”.

The lawyer, who successfully applied for a three-week adjournment given the number of “factors” involved, said a “short hearing” could then take place.

Proceedings have faced continuing delays over the state of the pensioner’s health and fitness to stand trial. His legal team had previously claimed that experts had diagnosed him as suffering from vascular dementia and would not be able to fully participate in his trial.

The west Belfast man, from Ramoan Gardens, Andersonstown, has yet to be formally arraigned on the two charges he faces in connection with the murder and disappearance of the mother of ten almost 45 years ago.

The charges arise out of the IRA abduction and murder of Mrs McConville from her Divis flat home in west Belfast in December 1972.

Bell was originally charged with aiding and abetting her murder, and with being a member of the IRA, but they were subsequently amended by the Public Prosecution Service.

The charges he now faces firstly claim 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”, while the second accuses him of having “endeavoured to persuade persons” to carryout the murder.

Jean 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 a British Army informant.

Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried, becoming one of the “Disappeared”, until in 1999 the IRA finally admitted the murder when information was passed to Garda in the Irish Republic.

Mrs McConville, whose body was found near to Templetown Beach in Co Louth in 2003, was killed by a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

Part of the case against Bell is allegedly 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 tapes which had been recorded on the premise they would remain unpublished until after the deaths of those taking part.