Ivor Bell, 77, has been charged with aiding and abetting in the murder of the mother-of-10 in the 1970s and has been remanded in custody.
McConville, who was 37, was abducted at gunpoint in front of her children from her home at Divis Flats in west Belfast in 1972 and was shot dead and secretly buried. The most high-profile Disappeared victim of the Troubles, McConville's body was eventually recovered on Shelling Hill beach in County Louth in August 2003, but nobody was ever charged with her murder.
Bell was arrested at his home in west Belfast on Tuesday in connection with the murder, and was refused bail yesterday after a police officer told the court there was a high risk of him absconding.
It has been revealed that the case against Bell stems from an interview he gave to Boston College, while they were trying to develop an oral history of the Troubles. Researchers recorded a series of candid interviews with former loyalist and republican paramilitaries, and promised to keep their contents secret until after the interviewees had died, however last year a US court ordered the tapes to be handed over to the Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI).
Applying for bail, Peter Corrigan, representing Bell, told a district judge that an interviewee on one of the Boston tapes, referred to only as Z, was his client. "During those interviews Z explicitly states that he was not involved with the murder of Jean McConville," Corrigan said.
He also questioned the evidential value of the interviews, pointing out that they had not been conducted by trained police officers.
"The defence submits that the evidence does not amount to a row of beans in relation to the murder of Jean McConville," he said.
Grey-haired Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast, sat impassively in the dock wearing a grey jumper as his lawyer made the claims. Some of McConville's children watched on from the public gallery.
A PSNI detective inspector, who earlier told the judge he could connect the accused with the charges, rejected Corrigan's interpretation of the Boston College interview.
He claimed the transcript indicated Bell had "played a critical role in the aiding, abetting, counsel and procurement of the murder of Jean McConville". The officer said he opposed bail on the ground that the defendant would likely flee the jurisdiction and revealed that he had previously used an alias to travel to Spain, predicting he could use IRA contacts to travel.
Corrigan said that his client suffered from a range of serious medical conditions, that his family was based in Belfast and that he had "every incentive" to stay in Northern Ireland to prove his innocence.