Jean McConville case dragging on

Jean McConville case dragging on
newsletter.co.uk
2 April 2015

A case against a veteran republican accused of involvement in one of Northern Ireland’s most notorious murders is dragging on, a court has been told.

Ivor Bell, 78, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, is alleged to have aided and abetted in the murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville, who was abducted from her home in west Belfast in 1972. He is further accused of IRA membership.

Defence solicitor Michael Crawford told Laganside Magistrates’ Court the case was centred on historic allegations.

Mr Crawford said: “Really, it is dragging on and there needs to be some focus.”

Grey haired and moustachioed Bell, who was wearing a purple coat and purple jumper with an open-neck white shirt underneath, sat impassively in the dock as the case was briefly mentioned.

The hearing lasted less than two minutes.

A prosecutor said a meeting with senior counsel was due to take place on April 13 to discuss a “very lengthy” recommendation from the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on whether to proceed with the legal action.

Adjourning the case, district judge George Conner said he expected the final decision by the middle of next month.

The judge said: “If it is not made, I would expect to know what the delay is.”

The pensioner was released on continuing bail and left the court accompanied by a man and woman.

Mrs McConville, a 37-year-old widow, was dragged from her home in the Divis flats by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army in Belfast – an allegation discredited by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home. The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed on to police in the Irish Republic.

She became one of the “Disappeared” and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.

Nobody has ever been convicted of her murder.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was arrested and questioned as part of the police investigation into Mrs McConville’s death.

The Louth TD has consistently rejected allegations by former republican colleagues including Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price that he had a role in ordering her death.

The allegations contained part of an oral history archive collated by Boston College and the Police Service of Northern Ireland launched legal action on both sides of the Atlantic to gain access to the tapes.

Testimony from former paramilitaries had been given on the basis that it would not be made public until after their death.

The case has been adjourned until May 14.

Storey arrest ‘based on information given to oral history project’

Storey arrest ‘based on information given to oral history project’
Irish News
FRIDAY DECEMBER 5 2014

It was like listening to Walter Mitty and Billy Liar being interviewed by Lord Haw Haw — Bobby Storey

BOBBY Storey has described his arrest in connection with the disappearance of Jean McConville as “politically motivated’ and said it was based on information given to the Boston College project.

The senior republican and northern chairman of Sinn Féin was arrested last week and questioned for several hours in connection with the 1972 abduction, murder and secret burial of the west Belfast mother of 10.

The 58-year-old, who would have been 16 at the time of Mrs McConville’s abduction. said he was questioned solely about information contained in interviews made by former IRA men as part of an oral history project.

He also claimed his arrest, and that of other senior republicans, including party leader Gerry Adams, was aimed at stunting “the rapid growth of Sinn Féin”.

In an interview with the Belfast Media Group the former IRA prisoner, who was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, said he was “innocent of any involvement” in the disappearance of the west Belfast woman.

“There is absolutely no need to use coercive legislation to deal with legacy issues but someone clearly wanted a headline-grabbing arrest,” he said.

However, he added “despite my arrest, we (Sinn Féin) will not allow old agendas to get in the way of progress.

“I will continue to support efforts to make the PSNI accountable”.

The senior Sinn Féin member said he was read transcripts of the Boston College tapes by detectives in Antrim who told him the names of the interviewees.

The interviews were carried out by former IRA man Anthon McIntyre as part of a project directed by journalist Ed Moloney.

While the former IRA members interviewed were given assurances that the recordings would be kept secret until after their deaths, a number of tapes were handed over to the PSNI following a legal battle in the USA.

Mr Storey, who was part of an IRA gang who escaped from the Maze in 1983, said having heard transcripts of the interviews he “understood” while those involved were keen to keep the project secret.

“They are shameful if not a bit pathetic… they are full of contempt, anger and vitriol.

“It was like listening to Walter Mitty and Billy Liar being interviewed by Lord Haw Haw. It all sounded like self inflated, ego tripping, propagandising rants.

“A typical question was like a mini speech with a question mark at the end of it. In everything they read out to me the question was four or five
times longer than the answer,” he added.

To date nine people — four men and five women — have been questioned in connection with the historic investigation into the murder of Mrs McConville.

One man Ivor Bell (77) has been charged with IRA membership and aiding and abetting the murder.

Boston Tapes Read to Storey

BOSTON TAPES READ TO STOREY
QUESTIONED: Bobby Storey is scathing about the tapes’ contents

Content ‘shameful and pathetic’ says SF chair
It was like listening to Walter Mitty and Billy Liar being interviewed by Lord Haw Haw. It all sounded like self inflated ego-tripping, propagandising rants.” Bobby Storey

BY ANTHONY NEESON
Andersonstown News
Saturday Edition, 6 December 2014 (published 4 December 2014)

EXTRACTS from the controversial Boston College tapes formed the basis of the interrogation of the leading Belfast republican Bobby Storey After his arrest last Thursday.

The Sinn Féin six county chair was questioned for several hours in Antrim Serious Crime Suite about an IRA investigation into the whereabouts of Divis mother- of-ten Jean McConville, who was abducted and shot dead by the IRA in 1972 before being secretly buried. Her remains were found in 2003.

The tapes were recorded as part of the now discredited Boston College Belfast Project in which conflict protagonists gave interviews on the understanding that they would not be made public until after their deaths.

Despite this, the tapes were handed over to the PSNI after a US court battle. Some interviewees say they now plan to sue Boston College.

Speaking to the Andersonstown News this week, Mr Storey said his arrest was politically motivated and followed a pattern which has seen the recent arrest of several senior republicans. He added that the arrests are an attempt to “thwart the rapid growth of Sinn Féin”.

“When the PSNI arrived at my home they said, ‘You’re under arrest as part of the investigation into the murder of Jean McConville.’ I replied,

‘Jean McConville? Seriously?’ such was the ridiculousness of it to me. The cop looked awkward. I said to my partner before I left, ‘This is the politics of the day, I’m arrested because I’m the chair of Sinn Féin in the six counties. This is about the party, not me.

‘Let me be very clear, I am innocent of any involvement in the conspiracy to investigate, abduct, kill or bury Mrs McConville. ”

The former IRA prisoner said his arrest could have been handed differently.

“There is absolutely no need to use coercive legislation to deal with legacy issues but someone clearly wanted a headline- grabbing arrest. There are two standards operating here. No British soldiers or RUC officers involved in killings, conspiracies or collusion are subject to the same treatment. But the nationalist community is not fooled by all this. The amount of support I’ve received since last week is phenomenal. I see that as a clear sign that people know well this is not about the tragedy around Mrs McConville. This is about assailing Sinn Féin.”

‘Boston tapes questions longer than answers’

“Our communities have watched on as the British government reneged on its commitment to hold an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, refuses a Hillsborough-type inquiry into the Ballymurphy Massacre and continues to cover up the role of the British state in collusion and killings.

“It all emphasises the need to deal with the past, not cynically exploit it. This is why we need a proper process such as that proposed by Richard Haass and Meaghan O’Sullivan.

“I want to also make it clear that, despite my arrest, we will not allow old agendas to get in the way of progress.

I will continue to support the efforts to make the PSNI accountable. Obviously this is work in progress, but I’m determined to work with others to build a genuinely civic policing service.”

Mr Storey said his questioning ran the gamut “from comedy to farce”.

“It was an almost surreal scenario where a very tragic situation was being used, in my firm opinion, as part of a political demonisation agenda against members of the Sinn Fein leadership,” he said. “I was presented with this following picture, which is becoming a recognised concoction against republicans in recent times.

“Person ‘A’ requests to meet the IRA. The IRA allegedly agrees to meet them to assist them. The meeting then allegedly takes place. Person ‘A’ subsequently goes to police to tell them about the supposed meeting. Person ‘A’ then wants the people they say they met charged with membership. So Person ‘A’ created and shapes the whole scene, then wants to use it to condemn who they say they met. This is the third such similar case in recent times.

“I was questioned on allegations from the infamous Boston tapes. Police told me the names of the interviewer on the tapes and the interviewees and the information that they provided on army volunteers, meetings, units, structures and operations, naming individuals and events.

“The tapes that were read out to me were read out in full – who said what. The PSNI told me these tapes were made in the belief they would not be released until after the interviewee’s death. It’s only when you listen to them that you appreciate why that proviso would be in there.

They are shameful, if not a bit pathetic.

“What strikes one upon listening to them is they are full of contempt, anger and vitriol. It’s also clear to me, listening to them, that truth is a casualty, as the interviewer and interviewee throw flowers at themselves as they demonise and ridicule everyone they regard as a political enemy.

“It was like listening to Walter Mitty and Billy Liar being interviewed by Lord Haw Haw. It all sounded like self-inflated ego-tripping, propagandising rants.

“The interviewer set the context and tone, and each question was leading by nature. A typical question was like a mini-speech with a question mark at the end. In everything they read out to me the question was four to five times longer than the answer. The answer was like an acceptance with the context of the question.”

Mr Storey says that despite his arrest Sinn Féin will “work flat-out making policing accountable”.

“We promote good civil policing in society and we condemn bad policing,” he said. “We need to get beyond the old agendas, this is policing at its poorest.

“We’ve had the party president arrested earlier this year and two councillors in the past few days, as well as myself. I would say most people would see it as politics.

“This is all going on at a time when two things are happening. There is a rapid growth in Sinn Féin and we are at our strongest since 1918. Our political opponents thought we had peaked at almost half a million votes in the European elections north and south. However, polls are indicating that our vision of a modern Irish republic based on equality continues to click with people.

“Secondly, we in Sinn Féin are the subject of the biggest demonisation campaign ever and it’s right across the island. Both these things are connected as our political opponents fear our vision.”

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.