THE case linked to the murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville over 40 years ago has found a former senior IRA leader not guilty.
The 1972 killing was carried out by the IRA’s Belfast Brigade who had accused her of being a British Army informant, a claim rejected by her family.
Ivor Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, was cleared today, Thursday, October 17, of two counts of soliciting the widow’s murder.
The court also heard allegations that former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams had recommended her murder and disappearance.
However, Mr Adams, who was called as a defence witness at Belfast Crown Court, strenuously denied involvement.
The case against the 82-year-old Bell was based on alleged admissions made to a Boston college oral history project which were played in public for the first time during the legal action.
Reporting restrictions were placed on the court case and these were lifted on Thursday.
During the hearing, jury was played taped recordings of an interview with a man – alleged to be Bell – who said Gerry Adams was the IRA’s “officer commanding” in Belfast and had been involved in the decision to kill and secretly bury Mrs McConville.
The judge later ruled the tapes were unreliable and could not be used as evidence against Mr Bell.
Addressing the jury, Mr Justice O’Hara said: “There is now no evidence which the prosecution can put before you in order to support the case.
“My role now is to direct you to return a verdict of not guilty, because you simply cannot find him to have done the acts alleged.”
Most of the Boston College interviews with republicans were carried out by former IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre, an outspoken critic of Sinn Féin.
The judge ruled Dr McIntyre had asked leading questions, which tainted the evidential value of the tapes.
The judge also ruled the false promise that testimony would remain confidential until the contributor’s death could have liberated Mr Bell to speak the truth, but could also have given him the freedom to lie, distort, blame or mislead.
There was clear bias that both McIntyre and Bell had an agenda and were “out to get” Mr Adams and others, the judge said.