The formal arraignment of veteran republican Ivor Malachy Bell accusing him of involvement in the 1972 murder of Belfast mother-of-ten Jean McConville, one of the so-called ‘Disappeared’, has been adjourned again for medical reasons.
Bell from Ramoan Gardens, in the Andersonstown area of west Belfast, was to have appeared before the Crown Court to enter his pleas to two separate charges of soliciting Mrs McConville’s murder between October 31, 1972 and January 1, 1973, in that he “encouraged ... endeavoured to persuade persons not before the court”, to murder the 37-year-old mum.
However, defence barrister Desmond Hutton told Mr Justice Treacy that Bell, who will be 80 in 11 days’ time, was suffering from dementia brought on by cardiovascular disease, which would have a bearing on his ability to follow court proceedings.
Prosecution QC Ciaran Murphy said they had just received a copy of the defence expert’s report and would ask that all of Mr Bell’s medical notes and reports be released to the prosecution and that the defendant allows himself to be examined by their psychiatric expert.
No details surrounding the case against Bell, or of the murder were given during the short hearing at Belfast’s Laganside Courthouse. However, earlier hearings were told evidence centres on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers involved in the Boston College history project with alleged ex-paramilitaries from Northern Ireland.
Mrs McConville was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972 after being wrongly accused of being an informer. Following her abduction she was killed and secretly buried.
Although in 1999 the IRA finally admitted the murder, and information was passed to Garda in the Irish Republic, her family had to wait another four years until her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth in August 2003. Post-mortem examinations revealed she was killed by a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.
Mr Justice Treacy listed the case for further review on December 16.