Jean McConville murder: 73-year-old man who was arrested is released

Jean McConville murder: 73-year-old man who was arrested is released
BBC News
30 October 2014

A 73-year-old man arrested in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of Belfast, in connection with the murder of Jean McConville, has been released unconditionally.

Mrs McConville, 37, a widow and mother of 10, was abducted in December 1972 from her flat in the Divis area of west Belfast and shot by the IRA.

Her body was recovered from a beach in County Louth in 2003.

The man had been taken to the serious crime suite at Antrim police station.

Ivor Bell: Voice analyst called in for Jean McConville murder case

Ivor Bell: Voice analyst called in for Jean McConville murder case
BBC News
30 October 2014

A voice analyst has been enlisted in the case of an alleged former IRA commander accused of involvement in the murder of one of the Disappeared.

Ivor Bell, 77, is alleged to have aided and abetted in the murder of mother-of-ten Jean McConville who was abducted from her west Belfast home in 1972.

Mr Bell’s lawyer told Belfast Magistrates Court the evidence against him “did not amount to a row of beans”.

Mr Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, was arrested in March.

Prosecutors said that an expert report was being sought as Mr Bell’s lawyer claimed he was “being treated unfairly compared to British soldiers who opened fire on Bloody Sunday”.

Mrs McConville was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast, shot dead and then secretly buried.

The case against Ivor Bell 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.

Abduct

Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, last year a US court ordered that the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s killing.

It is alleged that Mr Bell was 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.

A Public Prosecution Service (PPS) lawyer said a voice analysis report has been requested. She added that senior counsel has been asked to study the case and provide an opinion.

However, the defence lawyer 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 lawyer, resource constraints have impacted on the PSNI’s ability to properly investigate other episodes from the Troubles.

‘Treated equally’

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, the judge agreed to a PPS request to adjourn the case for six weeks.

“I appreciate the frustration for Mr Bell in this, but we are where we are. This just takes time.”

Bell was released on continuing bail to return to court in December.

Man, 73, arrested over Jean McConville murder in 1972

Man, 73, arrested over Jean McConville murder in 1972
Jenny Booth
The Times
Last updated at 10:31AM, October 30 2014

Police investigating one of the most notorious unsolved sectarian killings of The Troubles have arrested a 73-year-old man.

In 1972 Jean McConville was dragged, screaming, away from her children in the Divis flats in west Belfast by a gang of up to 12 men and women, after being wrongly accused of being an informer for the security forces.

The mother of ten was interrogated, shot in the back of the head and secretly buried. For many years she remained one of the “Disappeared” victims of Northern Ireland’s turmoil.

The case lay dormant for decades until her body was finally found in 2003 on Templeton beach in Co Louth, 50 miles from her home.

This year the police investigation sprang back to life with a vengeance, after tapes of interviews with an IRA car bomber that were conducted as part of an oral history project and kept locked in a Boston university archive were handed over to detectives.

The interviews contain potentially explosive claims made by Dolours Price, an IRA member who was convicted and jailed for a car bombing of the Old Bailey and who died in January. Though she consistently refused to co-operate with the police, she repeatedly claimed in interviews with journalists that she was the driver in the killing of Mrs McConville, and that the murder was ordered by Gerry Adams, now the president of Sinn Féin.

Mrs McConville’s son, Michael, said that if Mr Adams was implicated in the tapes then he should be put on trial.

The inquiry led to a series of arrests, of which the most high-profile was the four-day detention of Mr Adams.

Mr Adams, who has always maintained he never belonged to the IRA and vehemently denies involvement, was released pending a report being sent to prosecutors for assessment.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland today said that a 73-year-old man was arrested under the Terrorism Act and detained in Dunmurry in Greater Belfast. He was taken to the force’s serious crime suite in Antrim for questioning.

The journalist Ed Moloney and the former IRA member Anthony McIntyre, the leading researchers behind the Belfast Project, had believed their work would remain beyond the reach of the police until after the deaths of the interviewees.

However, in late 2011, Boston College submitted to an order from a judge to hand over the tapes to police in Northern Ireland under the terms of a treaty obligation.

A Parody of a Satire of a Farce

A Parody of a Satire of a Farce
Chris Bray
Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ivor Bell was back in court this week, where his lawyer asked the judge to throw out the increasingly weak and stale charges against him. Here’s how the Belfast Telegraph explains the judge’s response:

“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.”

Ivor Bell was arrested in March. Now, in September, prosecutors in Northern Ireland can’t make a decision about whether or not to pursue his prosecution, because they need some time to consult with the police on the case.

If six months of consultation hasn’t been enough, another two isn’t going to help. Give it up, folks.

Jean McConville murder: IRA suspect’s lawyer slams Boston College ‘evidence’

Jean McConville murder: IRA suspect’s lawyer slams Boston College ‘evidence’
Former IRA negotiator Ivor Bell’s lawyer blasts tapes used to charge his client in Northern Ireland as a ‘complete sham’
Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
The Guardian
Thursday 4 September 2014

The use of the controversial Boston College tapes to charge a former IRA negotiator with the murder of a mother of 10 has been branded a “complete sham”.

A lawyer for Ivor Bell demanded that the case against his client should be thrown out.

The Crown alleges that Bell is Mr Z on two taped interviews for the Belfast Project in which it is claimed he spoke about the circumstances of how widow Jean McConville was dragged from her children at gunpoint, driven across the Irish border and then murdered.

The 1972 disappearance of McConville resulted in Gerry Adams’ arrest earlier this year. The Police Service of Northern Ireland questioned the Sinn Féin president over allegations that he gave the order for the woman to be kidnapped, killed and then buried in secret – a claim Adams has always denied.

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

The case against him rests on two interviews given to the Belfast Project. Among those who gave testimony to the project was the late IRA Belfast commander, Brendan Hughes, whose interview included the allegations against Adams.

Bell – who is on bail – denies any role in events surrounding the murder, saying he was not even in the city at the time.

As the IRA veteran appeared before Belfast magistrates’ court on Thursday for an update in the case, his lawyer sought a direction from the Public Prosecution Service to discontinue the case.

Peter Corrigan, defending, claimed the level of disclosure violated an international treaty between the US and the UK.

In a scathing attack on the research initiative, he argued that it was unreliable. “Boston College carried out no safeguards in relation to obtaining the interviews. 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.”

District Judge Fiona Bagnall indicated that the defence application should wait until full papers were served.

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

The Urgent Search for Justice in a 1972 Murder, Cont

The Urgent Search for Justice in a 1972 Murder, Cont.
Chris Bray
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ivor Bell was arrested in March. It’s now September, and his prosecution has not gone forward. When, if ever, will he brought back into court? Six months, no action, dead silence.

Gerry Adams was arrested at the end of April. It’s now September, and no decision has been announced regarding the possibility he’ll be charged in Jean McConville’s 1972 kidnapping and murder.

At about the same time, Helen McKendry said publicly that she knew who had kidnapped her mother, and said she would go to the police to name names. It is now September, and we have no public indication that the PSNI has acted upon, or even received, the information that McKendry said she was about to bring to them.

Someone at the PSNI leaked the news, back in May, that the police would be returning to the archives at Boston College for new subpoenas of the entire Belfast Project. It’s now September, and there are no publicly available signs that those subpoenas were ever served.

The investigation into the murder of Jean McConville has stalled or evaporated. It’s time for the PSNI and the PPS to either take action or provide some explanation. What has been the point of all this?

Do it or give it up, publicly and explicitly. It’s time.

 

CHRIS BRAY: PSNI Theatre of Shadows

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
Chris Bray
Friday, July 11, 2014

In October 2012, news stories announced that the Police Service of Northern Ireland would be pursuing subpoenas of tapes and notes from interviews with former IRA member Dolours Price. The PSNI had already gone after Dolours Price interviews archived at Boston College, but this new effort was to be directed at the newspaper and TV journalists who had interviewed Price about the BC subpoenas. In the crosshairs: CBS News and the Sunday Telegraph.

More than a year and a half later, there is no evidence that those subpoenas ever arrived. When Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams emerged from his four-day interrogation at the PSNI’s Antrim station, he said that police had confronted him with material from the Boston College interviews; he made no mention of CBS or Telegraph materials. And my own tedious search of Pacer, the federal court case management website, turns up no evidence of subpoenas served on CBS News headquarters in New York.

To be sure, we can’t see very far into the underlying events, and it’s not clear what kind of contest may have taken place over this threat of subpoenas directed against journalists. I’ve been asking journalists and public affairs staff at CBS News and the Telegraph if they received subpoenas, or discussed the possibility of subpoenas with the PSNI, but those questions have gone entirely unanswered. Liz Young, the public affairs director at the PSNI, offered this careful non-answer to my questions: “Given that investigations are ongoing we are not in the position to either deny or confirm that a subpoena was sought and no inference should be taken from this.” So the conclusion has to balance the likely with the wholly unknown: It appears that the PSNI threatened journalists with subpoenas, but then didn’t follow through, and it’s not possible at this point to know why the threatened subpoenas apparently didn’t arrive.

Now: Spot the pattern. In May of this year, a new round of news stories announced that the PSNI would be seeking new subpoenas to secure every Belfast Project interview archived at Boston College. Again, no one is answering questions, but there’s no sign that those subpoenas have arrived.

Meanwhile, the high-profile arrest of Gerry Adams resulted in nothing more than the four-day-long collapse of the PSNI’s souffle. Three years after the Grand Inquisition began, Adams is a free man, and would not seem to have much reason to worry. The other big event in the PSNI’s supposed murder investigation was the March arrest of former IRA leader Ivor Bell, long purported to have been chief of staff to Adams in the 1970s IRA in Belfast. Bell was charged with aiding and abetting McConville’s murder, not with committing it; as yet, the PSNI hasn’t charged a single person with actually kidnapping McConville or actually killing her. And Bell is also a free man, released on bail as the Public Prosecution Service tries to decide whether or not to bother taking the charges to trial. They do not seem to be in any particular hurry.

So the PSNI’s “investigation” into the 1972 murder of Jean McConville — an investigation opened 39 years after the event — has made more noise than progress: some arrests that led to the release of those arrested; an arrest, with weak and likely to be abandoned charges, of someone who isn’t alleged to have killed McConville; and a storm of threats and promises that have mostly seemed to evaporate.

The available evidence continues to support the argument that I’ve now been making for more than three years: The PSNI is putting on a show, not a murder investigation.

But then spot the other pattern: Many news stories reported the PSNI’s claim that it would subpoena CBS News and the Telegraph; none reported that the subpoenas didn’t arrive. Many news stories reported that the PSNI would be pursuing the whole Belfast Project archive at Boston College; no news stories have reported that those new subpoenas haven’t been served. Many news stories reported the dramatic arrests of Adams and Bell; few journalists appear to have noticed that the air has leaked out of those arrests.

In Indonesia, puppeteers perform Wayang Kulit, a theater of shadows in which images are projected on a screen by performers who stand behind it. The PSNI is the Dalang, the puppeteer, in the shadow play of the Jean McConville “investigation.” And the news media continues to treat the play as real life.

Urgent Murder Investigation (cont.)

Urgent Murder Investigation (cont.)
Chris Bray
23 June 2014

On May 22, BBC News reported that detectives in the Police Service of Northern Ireland had decided to pursue new and very broad subpoenas of the Belfast Project archives at Boston College. The BBC reported that news in the present tense, writing that the PSNI “is seeking” all of that archival material.

Today is June 23, and more than a month has passed. Neither the Department of Justice nor Boston College will answer questions from me, anymore, and the PSNI never did in the first place. It’s possible that the PSNI is actively pursuing subpoenas, and it’s possible that the DOJ is actively preparing those subpoenas. But I searched Pacer, today — that’s the case management system for the federal courts, where case documentation can be accessed and downloaded — and I can find no sign that new subpoenas have been prepared or served.

Time will tell, but I wondered last month if the PSNI was wagging its dick at critics, in a fit of pique, with a piece of public theater that was designed to produce fear and worry rather than real investigative gains. How often do you see police departments announcing in the newspaper who they’re going to raid next week?

In any event, the other shoe does not appear to have dropped, or at least not yet. Let us hope that some politicians and criminal justice bureaucrats have come to their senses.

Vortex of violence ensnared innocents such as Irish priest

Vortex of violence ensnared innocents such as Irish priest
By James F. Burns
Special to The Sun
The Gainesville Sun
7 June 2014

“Father! Come quickly — a terrible road accident and a lad needs last rites.” A knock on the door had summoned the Rev. Eugene McCoy to a sacred task. The Irish priest left in such haste with the men at his door that he forgot his rosary beads.

McCoy became suspicious when the car ferrying him to the accident scene suddenly swerved off the main road and pulled up in front of a ramshackle mobile home in a remote location. Taken inside, he was led to a back bedroom when he found a distraught young man bound hand and foot on the bed.

The priest had been tricked — but for a holy purpose — into being part of a paramilitary execution. He begged for Eamon Molloy’s life but to no avail. Death sentences are seldom commuted by the Irish Republican Army.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams is a master magician. At least, that was Ed Moloney’s allegation in his 2002 book “A Secret History of the IRA.” Adams could make people disappear. He also excelled as a tightrope walker, gingerly treading the line linking politics with paramilitary activity. He would even carry coffins at IRA funerals and said he supported the IRA — but was never a member, mind you, another Houdini-like escape.

And like every good magician, Adams didn’t like secrets leaking out. Snitches were snuffed. And then made to disappear. Someone high up in the IRA command structure — Adams’ republican critics have nicknamed him “Itwasntme” — suggested that dumping bodies in the street had lost its deterrent effect and could even be embarrassing. Presto, Jean McConville, mother of 10, disappeared — for 31 years. Likewise, no one seemed to know where Eamon Molloy was — for 24 years. And so on.

And then the story moves to County Louth, Ireland’s littlest county and one right smack on the border created by the 1920 partition of Ireland into the six-county British province of Northern Ireland and the 26-county Irish Republic. The IRA was waging a war to erase that border; IRA math said that 26 + 6 = 1, i.e., a united Ireland. Their primarily-Protestant opponents did a different math, pointing out that “6 into 26 won’t go,” emphasis on “won’t” and with their own loyalist paramilitaries as enforcers.

Inevitably, the vortex of violence spilled over the border, ensnaring innocents such as McCoy, a County Louth parish priest. Louth was an ideal location for launching IRA attacks, secretly burying bodies, safe houses and field-testing bombs.

The 1998 Northern Ireland peace agreement turned terrorism to truce for the most of the combatants but left a lot of legacy issues unresolved, such as unsolved murders and parade route and flag issues. But life went on, and efforts evolved to understand the three decades of chaos and killing.

One post-peace project was Boston College’s collection of oral histories — confessions, if you will — by both IRA and loyalist terrorists, a valuable resource for future research. The 46 participants were supposedly given an iron-clad guarantee that their taped testimony would remain sealed until after their deaths.

But U.S. law was “treaty-trumped” in court by a bilateral agreement with the U.K., allowing release of some tapes for criminal investigation of Jean McConville’s murder. And the deaths of two terrorists had already allowed Ed Moloney to convert their tapes into another book laden with more accusations against Gerry “Itwasntme” Adams.

Sorrow knows no border, grief no religion, pain no politics — which is to say that all families, all friends, who have had their loved ones murdered during the Troubles deserve sympathy and support. The recent 40th anniversary of the dastardly loyalist bombings of Dublin and Monaghan that claimed 33 lives, including a mother and her two infant daughters, bears witness to the heartbreak on both sides of the border, both sides of the sectarian divide.

And who could not feel compassion for poor Father McCoy, caught up in a killing he could not stop. And there’s the final Irish irony of this sad tale. Resolved to administering last rites to Eamon Molloy, he realized that he had indeed forgotten his rosary beads in the hasty departure from home.

In a mix of the sacred with the sordid, one of the IRA men reached into his pocket and handed the priest his own rosary beads. Was it the same hand that then pulled the trigger?

James F. Burns, a retired University of Florida professor, formerly taught at Boston College and also stayed in County Louth with his family while on sabbatical in the British Isles.

Ivor Bell: ‘Boston Project ‘full of inaccuracies’ says lawyer

Ivor Bell: ‘Boston Project ‘full of inaccuracies’ says lawyer
BBC News
6 June 2014

Ivor Bell denies aiding and abetting the murder of Jean McConville

The Boston College project, used to charge an alleged former IRA commander with aiding the murder of Jean McConville is full of inaccuracies, a court in Belfast has heard.

Mr Bell, 77, from Ramoan Gardens, Belfast, is charged with IRA membership and aiding and abetting the murder.

The prosecution case is based on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers at Boston College.

His lawyer said some material disclosed violated an international treaty.

Defence lawyer Peter Corrigan said the Public Prosecution Service should now decide the evidence does not meet the standard for criminal prosecution.

Jean McConville, 37, became known as one of the Disappeared.

She was kidnapped in front of her children and accused of having been an informer. That claim was later dismissed following an official investigation.

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

Several former paramilitaries were interviewed 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 Mr Bell is one of the Boston interviewees, given the title Z, who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her.

The veteran republican – who is currently on bail – denies any role in events surrounding the murder, claiming he was not even in the city at the time.

On Friday, Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard that his file would be allocated to a prosecutor within four weeks.

But his lawyer said significant developments about the Boston study raised serious issues about the material being used against his client.

“It’s very clear it was an intellectual, academic project, but was riddled with inaccuracies, unreliable and subjective,” he contended.

“Any material gleaned from that does not match the rigorous standards required for a criminal (case).

“The PPS (Public Prosecution Service) should take a view that this evidence is unreliable, has not been evaluated properly and should not be the basis of a criminal prosecution.”

Turning to the international treaty used to obtain the tapes, he argued that a US court ordered that only material related to the Jean McConville case was to be disclosed to the PSNI.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall was told Mr Bell was questioned for “numerous days” about interviewee Z.

“Throughout that interview, material from the start of the Troubles right up to the late 1980s was put in contravention of an international treaty direction,” Mr Corrigan said.

“The American court directed in good faith certain materials and only those materials.

“That has been violated and it has a serious implication on how this court approaches the evidence and an abuse of the process.”

Responding to his request for the PPS to carry out a review and provide an update, Judge Bagnall pointed out that a decision had yet to be taken on the prosecution.

Mr Corrigan also confirmed his client plans to rely on an alibi defence.

“The defendant has put forward an account of where he was at the material time and he requested during interviews that the police obtain all military and police logs and records to verify the assertion that he wasn’t in Belfast,” he said.