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Ivor Bell deemed 'unfit' to stand trial in relation to Jean McConville disappearance

Jean McConville was killed by a single gunshot wound to the back of the head in December 1972.

Ivor Bell leaving the Belfast Magistrates' Court in 2016, aged 79.
Ivor Bell leaving the Belfast Magistrates' Court in 2016, aged 79.
Image: Niall Carson via PA Images

VETERAN REPUBLICAN IVOR Bell has been deemed “unfit” to stand trial over the disappearance of Belfast mother of ten, Jean McConville, because of his ill-health a senior judge ruled today.

Mr Justice Colton, however, refused a defence application “to stay the proceedings” because of an “abuse of process”, and a hearing will be heard to determine if, on the facts, he had anything to do with her going missing in December 1972.

The Belfast Crown Court judge is to review the case of the 82-year-old west Belfast man in the New Year when a date for the jury hearing will be made. The jury will be asked to determine the facts only, and not to rule on the pensioner’s guilt or innocence.

His defence has always maintained the health of Bell, from Ramoan Gardens, Andersonstown, is such that he is unfit to stand any criminal trial, and that any trial would have further detrimental affect upon him.

Bell has yet to be formally arraigned on the two charges he faces in connection with the IRA murder and abduction of the mother of ten from her Divis flat home in west Belfast over 45 years ago.

The pensioner 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 carry out the murder.

The evidence upon which the counts are founded was based on audio interviews said to have been conducted and recorded in Northern Ireland as part of the so-called Boston Tapes. Part of the audio material obtained by the PSNI includes interviews of “Z”, whom the prosecution claim is Bell.

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 she was 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 when the IRA finally admitted to the murder after information was passed to a Garda in Ireland.

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.

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