Saturday 1 October 2016

Jean McConville Timeline: 43 years since mother-of-ten was dragged from her home and shot dead

David Young

Published 29/09/2015 | 13:44

Jean McConville and three of her children before she vanished in 1972
Jean McConville and three of her children before she vanished in 1972

Here is a timeline of significant events relating to the notorious IRA murder of Belfast mother-of-ten Jean McConville:

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1972: Mrs McConville is dragged screaming from her home in Divis flats in west Belfast by an IRA gang of around 12 men and women. It is the last time her children see her alive. She is shot in the back of the head and secretly buried, so becoming one of the "Disappeared" victims of the Troubles. No one has been convicted of her murder in the 43 years since.

Mother-of-10 Jean McConville, who was abducted and murdered.
Mother-of-10 Jean McConville, who was abducted and murdered.

1999: One year after the signing of the historic Good Friday peace accord in Northern Ireland, the IRA finally admits responsibility for killing the 37-year-old widow, claiming she was an informer for the British Army.

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains is set up by the British and Irish governments and the IRA passes on information on Mrs McConville's possible whereabouts on a stretch of coastline in Co Louth in the Irish Republic. However, subsequent searches by the Irish police fail to find her body.

2001: Academics, historians and journalists embark on a five-year project to collate an oral history of the Northern Ireland Troubles. The Boston College initiative involves interviewing former paramilitaries about their roles in the conflict on the understanding their accounts would not be made public until they die.

2003: The body of Mrs McConville is finally found by a dog walker on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth after a heavy storm exposes her remains.

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams

2006: An investigation by Northern Ireland's then police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan rejects the IRA claim that Mrs McConville was an informer.

2008: Brendan Hughes, a former IRA commander in Belfast, who was one of the figures interviewed for the Boston College project, dies.

2010: A book containing excerpts from Hughes's interviews is published. Among claims outlined in Voices from the Grave is the allegation that Gerry Adams ordered the murder of Mrs McConville. Mr Adams emphatically rejects the accusation.

In the same year Dolours Price, who was convicted of the IRA's bombing of the Old Bailey in 1973, makes similar allegations about Mr Adams. Price indicates that she has also spoken to researchers at Boston College. Mr Adams again denies the claims and highlights both Price and Hughes's criticism of his and Sinn Fein's involvement in the peace process.

Veteran republican will stand trial in connection with the 1972 murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville, a judge in Belfast has ruled. Ivor Bell, 78, of Ramoan Gardens, west Belfast, is charged with aiding and abetting the murder of Mrs McConville Credit: ARTHUR ALLISON/PACEMAKER PRESS
Veteran republican will stand trial in connection with the 1972 murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville, a judge in Belfast has ruled. Ivor Bell, 78, of Ramoan Gardens, west Belfast, is charged with aiding and abetting the murder of Mrs McConville Credit: ARTHUR ALLISON/PACEMAKER PRESS

2011: The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) launches a legal bid in the US to try to obtain tapes within the Boston College archive that relate to the murder of Mrs McConville.

2013: Dolours Price dies in her Dublin home of a suspected overdose of prescription drugs.

Later in the year the PSNI wins it lengthy court battle with Boston College and a number of the tapes are handed over.

2014: In March, veteran republican Ivor Bell, then 77, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, is arrested and charged with aiding and abetting the murder of Mrs McConville and IRA membership.

Michael McConville.
Michael McConville.

Mr Adams, in response to the renewed focus on the McConville case in the wake of Bell's charges, issues a statement indicating he is willing to speak to the officers investigating the case. He again refutes any suggestion he had anything to do with the crime.

At different junctures in March and April, four women are arrested and questioned about the murder. All are subsequently released pending police reports to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

In April, Mr Adams, after back and forth contacts between his lawyer and detectives, presents himself at Antrim police station for interview. He is immediately arrested and taken into custody - a move that Sinn Fein brands unnecessary and an example of "political policing''. After four days of questioning Mr Adams is released pending a report to prosecutors.

In May, a 56-year-old man is arrested in connection with the murder. He is released pending a report to prosecutors.

In November, Sinn Fein's high profile northern chairman Bobby Storey is arrested in connection with the overall investigation into the murder. It is understood he is questioned about an IRA internal investigation carried out decades after the killing. Mr Storey is released pending a report being sent to prosecutors.

A year of intense activity by PSNI detectives working on the case brings 11 arrests, with one man charged and seven reports, including one on Mr Adams, having being sent to prosecutors for assessment.

2015: In June, a PPS lawyer tells Belfast Magistrates Court that its prosecution of Bell will proceed - ending months of uncertainty about the case.

In September, the PPS's deputy director Pamela Atchison announces the prosecutorial decisions on the files of Mr Adams, Mr Storey and the five others.

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