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Adams's close ally is quizzed by PSNI over murder of McConville


Gerry Adams

Gerry Adams

Gerry Adams

A SENIOR Sinn Fein politician has said he was left astounded by the arrest of a top republican by detectives investigating the murder of Jean McConville.

Bobby Storey, who is currently the Northern Chair of Sinn Fein and believed to have been the IRA's former director of intelligence, was arrested in west Belfast yesterday morning.

He was taken to Antrim Serious Crime Suite for questioning as part of the overall investigation into the 1972 abduction and murder of the mother of 10. He was released last night.

After the 58-year-old was arrested, Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly, a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said he was "astounded" and did "not see the sense in it".

But Sinn Fein's overall response to the arrest was much more sedate than when Gerry Adams was detained for four days as part of the same investigation. Following the Sinn Fein leader's arrest, a rally against his detention was held in west Belfast.

Mr Storey, a crucial ally of Mr Adams, was among high-ranking Sinn Fein figures to address the rally, which was also attended by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Mr Storey was highly critical of the arrest of Mr Adams, as he said the rally was a display of the anger that they "would dare touch our party leader".

Originally from the New Lodge area of north Belfast, Mr Storey was once named in the House of Commons as the IRA's former director of intelligence.

He has also been linked to the Northern Bank robbery, an alleged spy ring at Stormont and the raid on Special Branch offices at Castlereagh.

Mr Storey and Mr Adams are the most high-profile arrests in connection with the McConville case. The Sinn Fein leader was released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service.

As well as the widow's murder, police are also investigating linked alleged terror offences in the decades since, including IRA pronouncements made about the killing.

The abduction, killing and secret burial of Mrs McConville is one of the most notorious crimes of the Troubles. She was dragged 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 informing to the security forces. She was shot in the back of the head and then buried.

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Mrs McConville's body was found in 2003 on a beach in County Louth, 50 miles from her home.

Her funeral was finally held in west Belfast, 31 years after her disappearance.

Mr Storey spent more than 20 years in prison. He was also at the centre of the biggest jail break in British penal history, escaping from the H blocks at the Maze in a food lorry with 37 other IRA prisoners in September 1983.

"We shafted Maggie Thatcher," he said about the jailbreak in a recent interview.

In the run-up to the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Storey, who is now chair of Belfast Sinn Fein, was seen as a crucial ally of Gerry Adams and was key to the IRA's decision to decommission and support the Adams/McGuinness leadership.

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