Voice analyst enlisted in Jean McConville murder case
Case against Ivor Bell (77) centres on interview he allegedly gave to Boston College
Ivor Bell leaving Belfast Laganside Court, where he faced counts of aiding and abetting the killing of Jean McConville and of IRA membership. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A voice analyst has been enlisted in the case of an alleged former IRA commander accused of aiding and abetting the murder of Disappeared victim Jean McConville, a court heard today.
Prosecutors revealed an expert report is being sought as Ivor Bell’s lawyer claimed he is being treated unfairly compared to British soldiers who opened fire on Bloody Sunday.
Criticising the evidence used to charge his client, Peter Corrigan said: “In our view it doesn’t amount to a row of beans and is totally inadmissible.”
Mrs McConville, a mother-of-ten, was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972, shot dead and then secretly buried.
Mr Bell (77) from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of the city, was arrested in March and charged with paramilitary membership and aiding and abetting the murder.
The case against him centres on an interview he allegedly gave to US researchers from Boston College who interviewed several former paramilitaries about their roles in the Northern Ireland conflict.
Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, last year a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s killing.
It is alleged Mr Bell is one of the Boston interviewees, given the title Z, who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her. The accused — who is currently on bail — denies any role in events surrounding the murder, claiming he was not even in the city at the time.
As police investigating the killing continued to question a 73-year-old man arrested in Dunmurry, Mr Bell appeared before Belfast Magistrates’ Court for an update in proceedings against him.
A Public Prosecution Service (PPS) lawyer revealed that a voice analysis report has been requested. She added that senior counsel has been asked to study the case and provide an opinion. But Mr Corrigan argued that it was “untenable” for PPS to have yet to make a decision on whether to continue with the prosecution.
As well as challenging the need to bring in a voice expert, he described his client as an elderly man facing the stress of being charged with conflict-related offences. According to the solicitor, resource constraints have impacted on the PSNI’s ability to properly investigate other episodes from the Troubles.
He cited the Bloody Sunday case where British troops killed 13 civil rights marchers in Derry, and the activities of the loyalist Glenanne gang — a sectarian murder squad that allegedly included rogue members of the police and Army.
“My client is entitled to be treated equally before the law,” Mr Corrigan said. “If he’s treated in some way differently from the soldiers on Bloody Sunday... it’s something we intend to put forward as part of an application: why is Ivor Bell and why is everybody not being treated equally for conflict-related offences?”
However, District Judge Fiona Bagnall agreed to a PPS request to adjourn the case for six weeks. “If there are 10 Lever Arch files, with the best will in the world you have to give senior counsel time to review them,” she said.
“I appreciate the frustration for Mr Bell in this, but we are where we are. This just takes time.”
Mr Bell was released on continuing bail to return to court in December.