Police case against Bell based on interview allegedly given to researchers
Defence says evidence ‘does not amount to a row of beans’ in relation to murder of Jean McConville’
Jean McConville (left) pictured with three of her children shortly before she disappeared in 1972. Photograph: Pacemaker
The police case against a veteran republican charged in connection with the notorious IRA murder of Belfast mother of 10 Jean McConville is based on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers at a US college, a court has heard.
The claim was made as Ivor Bell (77) was refused bail and remanded in custody by a district judge in Belfast on Saturday, accused of aiding and abetting in the murder as well as membership of the IRA.
Boston College interviewed a number of former paramilitaries about the Troubles on the understanding transcripts would not be published until after their deaths – but that undertaking was rendered ineffective when a US court last year ordered that the tapes be handed over to detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
The interviews included claims about the murder of Mrs McConville, who was abducted by the IRA at her home at Divis Flats, Belfast, in 1972, shot dead and then secretly buried.
Applying for bail, Peter Corrigan, representing Mr Bell, told district judge Amanda Henderson that the prosecution case was that an interviewee on one of the Boston tapes, referred to only as “Z”, was his client. He insisted the person interviewed on the tape had denied any involvement in the murder.
“During those interviews, Z explicitly states that he was not involved with the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.
Mr Corrigan also questioned the evidential value of the interviews, pointing out that they had not been conducted by trained police officers.
“The defence submits that the evidence does not amount to a row of beans in relation to the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.
Grey-haired, moustachioed Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast, sat impassively in the dock wearing a grey jumper as his lawyer made the claims.
Some of Mrs McConville’s children watched from the public gallery.
A PSNI detective inspector, who earlier told the judge he could connect the accused with the charges, rejected Mr Corrigan’s interpretation of the Boston College interview. He claimed the transcript indicated Mr Bell had “played a critical role in the aiding, abetting, counsel and procurement of the murder of Jean McConville”.
The officer said he opposed bail on the ground that the defendant would likely flee the jurisdiction. He revealed that he had previously used an alias to travel to Spain and predicted he could use contacts within the IRA to travel beyond Northern Ireland.
Mr Corrigan said that was out of the question, noting that his client suffered from a range of serious medical conditions, that his family was based in Belfast and that he had “every incentive” to stay in Northern Ireland to prove his innocence.
“Are the prosecution seriously suggesting that a man in this serious ill health, who can’t walk up steps, is going to abscond for an offence where he has every incentive to attend court?” he said.
The judge said: “I am persuaded by the prosecution in this case and on that basis I am refusing bail,” she said.