Boston College tapes ‘used to charge alleged former IRA man Ivor Bell in connection with Jean McConville murder a sham’ – court hears (Belfast Telegraph)

An American university project used to charge an alleged former IRA commander with aiding and abetting the murder of Disappeared victim Jean McConville was “a complete sham”, a court heard today.

Ivor Bell’s lawyer claimed the Boston College interviews were carried out without proper safeguards and oversight.

Seeking to have the case against the veteran republican halted, solicitor Peter Corrigan said: “The project… was operated on a basis with no validation of any of the work carried out.”

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.

Bell, 77, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of the city, was arrested in March and charged with IRA membership and aiding and abetting the murder.

The case against him centres on an interview he allegedly gave to Boston College researchers 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Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, last year a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s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 that 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 he appeared before Belfast Magistrates’ Court today for an update in the case, his lawyer sought a direction for Public Prosecution Service to discontinue the case.

Mr Corrigan claimed the level of disclosure violated of an international treaty between the United States and United Kingdom.

In a scathing attack on the research initiative itself, he argued that it was unreliable.

“Boston College carried out no safeguards in relation to obtaining the interviews,” the solicitor said.

“At first instance the court must be satisfied that the evidence has been lawfully obtained.

“It’s our case that the Boston College project was a complete sham.”

Mr Corrigan insisted that the prosecution are relying exclusively on the interviews because no corroborative evidence exists.

Describing Bell as an elderly man with serious health issues, he added: “His family now, after so many years, are now reliving the trauma in relation to the Troubles.”

But after being told prosecutors want another eight weeks to consult with police, District Judge Fiona Bagnall indicated that the defence application should wait until full papers are served.

Adjourning proceedings until October 30, she said: “I would urge the prosecution to endeavour to prepare this case as quickly as possible.”


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