Northern Ireland

Jean McConville: Adjournment in case against Ivor Bell 'final'

Ivor Bell Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Veteran republican Ivor Bell is charged with aiding and abetting the murder of Jean McConville

Prosecutors have been given a final deadline to decide whether to pursue a case against a former IRA leader over the murder of Jean McConville.

A judge gave an ultimatum to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) after it applied for another adjournment in the case against Ivor Bell.

Mr Bell, 78, is charged with aiding and abetting the murder of Mrs McConville.

The Belfast mother-of-10, one of the Disappeared, was abducted by the IRA from her flat in December 1972.

Mrs McConville, 37, was kidnapped in front of her children after being wrongly accused of being an informer.

The claim that she was an informer was dismissed after an official investigation by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman

She was held at one or more houses before being shot and buried in secret. Her body was eventually recovered on a beach in County Louth in August 2003.

Nobody has ever been charged with her murder.

Consideration

On Thursday, a judge at Belfast Magistrates' Court granted the application for a three-week adjournment despite a call from the defence to discontinue the case.

Mr Bell, of Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, is also charged with membership of the IRA.

The veteran republican's solicitor said it had been over a year since Mr Bell had been charged.

"There has already been undue delay from 1972, and now we have 14 months waiting on a decision," he said.

The defence solicitor asked why Mr Bell had been charged, saying police and prosecutors should only have done that if they were already satisfied a prima facie case existed.

A prosecution lawyer told the judge that senior counsel from the PPS and police officers had met on Wednesday to review the case.

"Further time is needed to give consideration to further advice received," he added.

The defence solicitor objected, and said Mr Bell was "elderly", had "medical issues", and had a right to have his case dealt with in a "timely" way.

But the judge said he would grant the adjournment application on the basis that it would be the last one.

He listed the case for 4 June. Mr Bell was released on continuing bail.

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