Ivor Bell trial decision delayed in Jean McConville murder case

Ivor Bell

A decision on whether the trial against a veteran republican charged in connection with the murder of Jean McConville will proceed has been delayed to the autumn.

Ivor Bell (aged 80) faces two counts of soliciting the IRA abduction and killing of the mother-of-10 in 1972, but Belfast Crown Court has heard evidence he is suffering from dementia and would not be able to participate fully in proceedings.

Prosecutors had been expected to announce the outcome of their review of the case on Friday, but instead asked for further time to consider additional evidence submitted by Bell's defence team on Thursday morning.

Prosecuting barrister Ciaran Muphy QC told judge Mr Justice Treacy that the defence submission touched on legal, factual and medical issues.

"It will now be considered in detail," he said. "I anticipate that will take a few weeks."

The judge agreed to list the case for another pre-trial hearing after the summer recess on September 8.

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

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.

It was not until 1999 that the IRA admitted the 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loyalist paramilitaries for their Belfast Project on the understanding that the accounts of the Troubles would remain unpublished until their deaths.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.

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