JEAN MCCONVILLE (née MURRAY; 7 May 1934 – December 1972) was a
Northern Ireland , who was kidnapped and shot
dead by the Provisional IRA and secretly buried in
County Louth in the
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland in 1972 after being accused by the IRA of passing
information to British forces. This practice was a Republican
tradition going back to the
Irish War of Independence
Irish War of Independence and Irish Civil
War when about 200 civilian informers were executed.
In 1999, the IRA acknowledged that it had killed McConville and eight
others of the "Disappeared ". It falsely claimed she had been passing
information about republicans to the
British Army in exchange for
money and that a transmitter had been found in her apartment. A
report by the Police Ombudsman found no evidence for this or other
rumours. Before the Troubles , the IRA had a policy of killing
informers within its own ranks; however, from the start of the
conflict the term informer was also used for civilians who were
suspected of providing information on paramilitary organisations to
the security forces. Other
Irish republican and loyalist
paramilitaries also carried out such killings. As she was a widowed
mother of ten, the McConville killing was particularly controversial.
Her body was not found until 2003, and the crime has not been solved.
The Police Ombudsman found that the
Royal Ulster Constabulary
Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)
did not begin to investigate the disappearance properly until 1995.
* 1 Biography
* 1.1 Killing
* 1.2 Aftermath
* 2 Investigation
* 2.1 Police Ombudsman\'s report
* 2.2 PSNI investigation and
Boston College tapes
* 2.3 2014 arrests
* 3 See also
* 4 References
* 5 External links
Jean Murray was born on 7 May 1934 to a Protestant family in East
Belfast but converted after marrying Arthur McConville, a Catholic
British Army soldier, with whom she had ten children. After
being intimidated out of a Protestant district by loyalists in 1969,
the McConville family moved to West Belfast's
Divis Flats in the Lower
Falls Road . Arthur died from cancer in January 1972.
At the time of her death, Jean McConville lived at 1A St Jude's Walk,
which was part of the
Divis Flats complex. This was an IRA
stronghold, from which attacks were regularly launched against the
British Army and RUC. Since the death of her husband, she had been
raising their ten children, who were aged between six and twenty.
Their son Robbie was a member of the \'Official\' IRA and was interned
Long Kesh at the time of her death; he would defect to the Irish
National Liberation Army (INLA) in 1974.
In the months leading up to her death, tension and suspicion grew
between McConville and her neighbours. One night shortly before her
disappearance, she was allegedly attacked after leaving a bingo hall
and warned to stop giving information to the British Army. According
to police records, on 29 November 1972 a
British Army unit found a
distressed woman wandering in the street. She told them her name was
McConville and that she had been attacked and warned to stop
informing. One of McConville's children claimed she was kidnapped the
night after this incident, but others gave the date of the kidnapping
as 7 December.
On the night of her disappearance, four young women took McConville
from her home at gunpoint, and she was driven to an unknown location.
Dolours Price admitted that she was one of those involved in driving
her across the border. McConville was killed by a gunshot to the back
of the head, there was no evidence of any other injuries to her body.
Her body was secretly buried across the border on Shellinghill Beach
(also known as Templetown Beach) on the
Cooley Peninsula in the north
County Louth , about 50 miles from her home. The place of her death
Although no group admitted responsibility for her disappearance,
there were rumours that the IRA had killed her for being an informer.
Another rumour is that she was killed because neighbours claimed they
saw her helping a badly wounded British soldier outside her home;
however, there is no record of such an incident. McConville's
children say they recall her helping a wounded British soldier some
time before their father died in January 1972. In a 2014 interview
published in the Sunday Life , veteran republican Evelyn Gilroy
claimed the person who had tended to the soldier was her sister.
The IRA did not admit involvement until after the signing of the Good
Friday Agreement . It claimed she was killed because she was passing
information about republicans to the British Army. Former IRA member
Brendan Hughes claimed the IRA had searched her flat some time before
her death and found a radio transmitter, which they confiscated. He
and other former republicans interrogated her and claimed she admitted
British Army was paying her for information about republicans.
Hughes claims that, because of her circumstances, they let her go with
a warning. However, he claims when the IRA found she had resumed
working for the British Army, it decided to "execute" her.
Usually the bodies of informers were left in public as a warning, but
the IRA secretly buried McConville, apparently because she was a
widowed mother-of-ten. The IRA had first done this two months earlier,
when it killed and buried two IRA members who were found to be working
undercover for the British
Military Reaction Force (MRF).
After her disappearance, McConville's seven youngest children,
including six-year-old twins, survived on their own in the flat, cared
for by their 15-year-old sister Helen. After three weeks, the hungry
family was visited by a stranger, who gave them Jean's purse, with 52
pence and her three rings in it.
On 16 January 1973, the story of the abduction appeared on the front
page of the
Belfast Telegraph , under the headline "Snatched mother
missing a month". The following day, the children were interviewed on
BBC television programme Scene Around Six. The children reported
to the social services , and were immediately brought into local
council care. The family was forcibly split up by social services.
Among the consequences of the killing, Jean's orphaned son Billy was
sent to De La Salle Boys' Home, Rubane House,
Kircubbin , County Down
, notorious for child abuse; he testified in 2014 to the Northern
Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry , describing repeated
sexual and physical abuse, and starvation, saying "Christians looking
after young boys – maybe they were Christians, but to me they were
devils disguised in that uniform."
Within two days of her kidnapping, one of her sons reported the
incident to the
Royal Ulster Constabulary
Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the British Army.
However, the Police Ombudsman did not find any trace of an
investigation into the kidnapping during the 1970s or 1980s. An
officer told the Ombudsman that CID investigations in that area of
Belfast at that time were "restricted to the most serious cases". On
2 January 1973, the RUC received two pieces of information stating:
"it is rumoured that Jean McConville had been abducted by the because
she is an informer".
In March 1973, information was received from the British Army, saying
the kidnapping was an elaborate hoax and that McConville had left of
her own free will. As a result, the RUC refused to accept that
McConville was missing, preferring to believe an anonymous tip that
she had absconded with a British soldier. The first investigation
into her kidnapping appears to have taken place in 1995, when a team
of RUC detectives was established to review the cases of all those who
were thought to have been kidnapped during the conflict.
In 1999, the IRA gave information on the whereabouts of her body.
This prompted a prolonged search, co-ordinated by the Garda Síochána
, the Irish police service, but no body was found. On the night of 26
August 2003, a storm washed away part of the embankment supporting the
west side of Shellinghill Beach car park, near the site of previous
searches. This exposed the body. On 27 August, it was found by
passersby while they were walking on Shellinghill Beach (also known as
Templetown Beach) in
County Louth at the eastern tip of the Cooley
Peninsula . McConville was subsequently reburied beside her husband
Arthur in Holy Trinity Graveyard in
POLICE OMBUDSMAN\'S REPORT
In April 2004 the inquest into McConville's death returned a verdict
of unlawful killing.
In 2006 the Police Ombudsman for
Northern Ireland , Nuala O\'Loan ,
published a report about the police’s investigation of the murder.
It concluded that the RUC did not investigate the murder until 1995,
when it carried out a minor investigation. It found no evidence that
she had been an informer, but recommended the
British Government go
against its long-standing policy regarding informers and reveal
whether she was one. Journalist
Ed Moloney called for the British
Government to release war diaries relating to the
Divis Flats area at
the time. War diaries are usually released under the thirty-year rule
, but those relating to Divis at the time of McConville's death are
embargoed for almost ninety years.
The police have since apologised for its failure to investigate her
abduction. In January 2005,
Sinn Féin party chairman Mitchel
McLaughlin claimed that the killing of McConville was not a crime,
saying that she had been executed as a spy in a war situation. This
prompted Irish journalist Fintan O\'Toole to write a rebuttal, arguing
that the abduction and extrajudicial killing of McConville was clearly
a "war crime by all accepted national and international standards".
The IRA has since issued a general apology, saying it "regrets the
suffering of all the families whose loved ones were killed and buried
by the IRA".
PSNI INVESTIGATION AND BOSTON COLLEGE TAPES
In August 2006, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern
Sir Hugh Orde
Sir Hugh Orde , stated that he was not hopeful anyone
would be brought to justice over the murder, saying " any case of that
age, it is highly unlikely that a successful prosecution could be
Boston College had launched an oral history project on the Troubles
in 2001. It recorded interviews with republicans and loyalists about
their involvement in the conflict, on the understanding that the tapes
would not be released until after their deaths. Two of the
Brendan Hughes and
Dolours Price , both now
deceased, admitted they were involved in McConville's kidnapping.
Both became diehard opponents of the
Good Friday Agreement and Sinn
Féin's support of it. They saw
Sinn Féin president
Gerry Adams as a
traitor for negotiating the Agreement and persuading the IRA to end
In 2010, after Hughes's death, some of his statements were published
in the book Voices from the Grave. He claimed McConville had
admitted being an informer, and that Adams ordered her disappearance.
In a 2010 newspaper article, Price also claimed McConville was an
informer and that Adams ordered her disappearance, which has been
strenuously denied by Ed Moloney. Price, who died in 2013, said she
gave the interviews as revenge against Adams. Former republican
prisoner Evelyn Gilroy, who lived near McConville, claimed Adams was
an IRA commander and the only person who could have ordered the
Adams has denied any role in the death of McConville. He said "the
killing of Jean McConville and the secret burial of her body was wrong
and a grievous injustice to her and her family".
In 2011, the PSNI began a legal bid to gain access to the tapes.
Acting on a request from the PSNI, the United States Justice
Department tried to force
Boston College to hand them over. Boston
College had promised those interviewed that the tapes would not be
released until after their deaths, and other interviewees said they
feared retribution if the tapes were released. Following a lengthy
court battle, the PSNI was given transcripts of interviews by Hughes
In March and April 2014, the PSNI arrested a number of people over
the kidnapping and killing of Jean McConville.
Ivor Bell , former IRA
Chief of Staff, was arrested in March 2014. Shortly afterwards, he
was charged with aiding and abetting in her murder. In April, the
PSNI arrested three people who were teenagers at the time of the
kidnapping: a 56-year-old man and two women, aged 57 and 60. All were
released without charge.
Following Bell's arrest in March, there was media speculation that
police would want to question
Gerry Adams due to the claims made by
Hughes and Price. Adams maintained he was not involved, but had his
solicitor contact the PSNI to find whether they wanted to question
him. On 30 April, after being contacted by the PSNI, Adams
voluntarily arranged to be interviewed at Antrim PSNI Station. He was
arrested and questioned for four days before being released without
charge. A file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to
decide whether further action should be taken, but there was
"insufficient evidence" to charge him.
The arrest took place during an election campaign.
Sinn Féin claimed
that the timing of the arrest was politically motivated; an attempt to
harm the party's chances in the upcoming elections.
Alex Maskey said
it was evidence of a "political agenda a negative agenda" by elements
of the PSNI.
Jean McConville's family had campaigned for the arrest of Adams over
the murder. Her son Michael said "Me and the rest of my brothers and
sisters are just glad to see the PSNI doing their job. We didn't think
it would ever take place , but we are quite glad that it is taking
place." In a later interview on the Today programme on
BBC Radio 4 ,
he stated that he knew the names of those who had abducted and killed
his mother, but that: "I wouldn't tell the police . If I told the
police now a thing, me or one of my family members or one of my
children would get shot by those people. It's terrible that we know
those people and we can't bring them to justice."
Disappeared (Northern Ireland)
Internal Security Unit
* Independent Commission for the Location of Victims\' Remains
Murder of Thomas Oliver
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evidence on Mrs McConville's skeletal remains to suggest that she had
suffered any other injuries prior to her death.
* ^ Police Ombudsman's report (2006), p.7
* ^ "My sister lived five doors from Jean McConville in Farset Walk
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gave him a glass of water. "Her act of compassion didn't go down well
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