Jean McConville murder case prosecutors to proceed with action against veteran republican Ivor Bell

Mother-of-10 Jean McConville who went missing in 1972 and 80-year-old Ivor Bell who faces two counts of soliciting the IRA abduction and killing.
Mother-of-10 Jean McConville who went missing in 1972 and 80-year-old Ivor Bell who faces two counts of soliciting the IRA abduction and killing.

Prosecutors intend to proceed with legal action involving a veteran republican charged in connection with the murder of Jean McConville, a lawyer told a court.

However, no view was aired in court by a barrister for the Crown on whether Ivor Bell's dementia diagnosis made him unfit for a criminal trial. A further hearing is planned for an intervention by his lawyers.

Jean McConville.

Jean McConville.

The test for prosecution of the 80-year-old, which involves an assessment of the evidence against an accused, was met, Judge Adrian Colton at Belfast Crown Court was told.

Bell faces two counts of soliciting the IRA abduction and killing of the Belfast mother-of-10 in 1972, but the court has heard medical evidence his condition means he would not be able to participate fully in proceedings.

Ciaran Murphy QC, for the Prosecution Service, said: "There has been a review of this case carried out on the basis of significant submissions by the defence over the summer.

"The Prosecution Service have indicated to the defence that they intend to proceed."

Republican Ivor Bell.

Republican Ivor Bell.

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.

Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, denies charges connected to the case.

His counsel Desmond Hutton said to proceed to trial would be "oppressive".

His elderly client was diagnosed as suffering from dementia.

Mr Hutton said a series of reports confirmed that diagnosis and indicated that he is unable to participate in the trial process and would be "unfit to be tried".

He added: "Continuation of proceedings is likely to exacerbate his condition.

"Defence received yesterday a letter from the Crown to indicate that following a review the Crown had confirmed that the test for prosecution was met."

He said: "We do feel that that is an oppressive position.

"In the circumstances we would seek to make an application to the court prior to any arraignment."

That hearing was set for next month.

It was not until 1999 that the IRA admitted to Mrs McConville's 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.