Police Ombudsman Press Release
Report Regarding the Police Investigation into the Abduction and Murder of Mrs Jean McConville
IRA Murder Prosecution ‘Unlikely’ – Chief Constable
IRA Statement on McConville Case
The Police Ombudsman investigation into a complaint from Jean McConville’s family has concluded that police did not conduct an investigation into her disappearance for more than 20 years. The investigation has also revealed police had received information from military sources which suggested the abduction was a hoax and that Mrs McConville was known to be safe and well.
These are two of the findings of an investigation into a complaint by some of her children that police failed to investigate the disappearance of their mother.
Mrs Jean McConville, a widow with ten children, was abducted from her home at Divis Flats in west Belfast in December 1972 by the IRA and killed. In the months that followed some of the children were taken ‘into care.’
In 1995 an RUC team was established to review the cases of ‘the disappeared,’ including Mrs McConville. In March 1999, the IRA said they killed a number of people, including Mrs McConville and alleged some of them had been informants. Her body was found on Shelling Hill Beach at Carlingford in County Louth on August 26 2003. She had been shot in the head.
The investigation of her murder will now form part of the work of the PSNI Historical Enquiry Team. The Police Ombudsman has now written to members of the McConville family outlining details of the investigation.
The investigation established that there was no formal police record of Mrs McConville’s disappearance nor any investigation at that time to try and find her. There is no evidence as to when she actually disappeared, and while some her family think it was on 7 December, other members of the family have said that they are not certain as to the date.
An examination of evidence given to the Coroner at Mrs McConville’s inquest indicates that one of her sons recalled that the abduction took place on the night of December 7 1972. Her son told Police Ombudsman investigators he reported his mother’s abduction at Albert Street Military Barracks and at Hastings Street Police Station within two days of the incident.
A Detective Inspector at Hastings Street Police Station in 1972, Retired Detective Superintendent B, has said that as far as he can remember, Mrs McConville was treated as a missing person. The officer has said that, because of the situation at the time, RUC inquiries in the Divis Flats area were restricted.
There is no intelligence about or from Mrs McConville until 2 January 1973. An examination of RUC intelligence files show that the first intelligence was received on January 2 1973 when police received two pieces of information which said that the Provisional IRA had abducted Mrs McConville.
On January 16 1973, Mrs McConville’s disappearance and the plight of her children were reported in the media. A police spokesman was quoted as saying that although the matter had not been reported to them, it was being investigated.
RUC intelligence files show that the next day police received two pieces of information about the disappearance: One claimed that Mrs McConville was being held by the Provisional IRA in Dundalk. The other also alleged that the Provisionals were behind the abduction and suggested it was related to drug dealing.
The RUC intelligence files also show that the police later received two separate pieces of information from military sources which suggested that Mrs McConville was not missing: The first was received on March 13 1973 and suggested that the abduction was an elaborate hoax. The second piece of information, which was received 11 days later, said that Mrs McConville had left of her own free will and was known to be safe.
Police Ombudsman investigators have also spoken to Retired Detective Sergeant E, who worked on the 1995 RUC review of the case. He said he had spoken to several colleagues who worked in the area in 1972 but none of them could recall an investigation into Mrs McConville’s disappearance.
The Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala O’Loan said she has upheld the complaint that police did not properly investigate Mrs McConville’s disappearance at this stage: “Whether Mrs McConville’s son reported his mother’s disappearance on December 7 or not, we have evidence that by January 2 police were aware that the mother of ten was missing. By January 16 a spokesman was being quoted as saying the matter was being investigated but we have found no evidence of this. There is no crime file about any investigation of the abduction in 1972.
Even if we look at the intelligence the police received which suggested that Mrs McConville was alive and had either left of her own will or was being held by the Provisionals in Dundalk, we found no evidence that either of these issues were looked at. An Garda Siochana have said they are not aware of an investigation by them into Mrs McConville’s death prior to the discovery of her body,” said Mrs O’Loan.
Earlier this month the Police Ombudsman made a public statement that her investigation had found no evidence Mrs McConville had been an Informant and had not been passing information to the police, the Army or the Security Services.
The Police Ombudsman investigation has also raised questions about the long held view that Mrs McConville may have been killed because she went to the aid of a solder who had been shot.
“Mrs McConville’s children recall that she went to help a soldier who had been shot but recall that the incident happened before their father’s death in January 1972, which was a year before the abduction, when they were living at a different address. Records show that the only terrorist attack on a solder in the area around the time of Mrs McConville’s abduction was on Private D who was shot in the thigh on December 15 1972 – which was eight days after the abduction,” said Mrs O’Loan.
The family have consistently said that Jean McConville was abducted and beaten and released, the night before she was abducted and murdered. They remember her coming home in great distress, bruised and dazed. Police records show that on 30 November a report was received at 02.00 hrs from an army unit stating that at 23.00 hrs a woman had been found wandering in the street. The woman had told them that she had been beaten and told not give information to the army. She was very distressed and the army stated her name was Mary McConville of St Jude’s Walk. Mary McConville was Jean McConville’s Mother-in- Law. It is thought by the family that the woman found by the army may have been Jean McConville, who was asking for her Mother in Law. The following day Jean McConville was abducted and murdered.
IRA murder prosecution ‘unlikely’
BBC News, 14 August 2006
Northern Ireland’s chief constable has said he is not hopeful anyone will be brought to account over the IRA murder of a Belfast mother-of-10.
Sir Hugh Orde was speaking after a report by the Police Ombudsman criticised the investigation into the murder of Jean McConville in 1972.
It said a proper investigation was not carried out for more than 20 years.
Sir Hugh said: “Any case of that age, it is highly unlikely that a successful prosecution could be mounted.”
Mrs McConville, who was a widow, was abducted and killed after she went to the aid of a fatally wounded British soldier outside her home in west Belfast’s Divis flats.
The Police Ombudsman found there was no formal police record of Mrs McConville’s disappearance, nor of attempts at the time to find her.
The chief constable told a news conference: “We are very sorry for what happened. It should clearly have been investigated better.”
He said he and his officers would be willing to meet the family to update them on the progress of their investigation.
Sir Hugh, who has set up the Historical Enquiries Team to deal with unsolved murders during 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland, insisted it would do everything possible to bring some form of resolution for the McConville family.
In a statement earlier, the police said they “apologised unreservedly to the family for any failings made by police”.
“Police policy and practice into how it deals with missing persons and how it conducts investigations has changed significantly since 1972,” it said.
Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton said that in 1972 more than 470 people were murdered in Northern Ireland and people had to realise what the situation was like then.
“There were over 10,000 shooting incidents, these are statistics that are difficult nowadays to comprehend,” he said.
“I am not using that as any excuse for failure in police action.
“I think if there is a failure in police action, then we need to say sorry and that is what I am doing, but I think it is important for people to realise just what the situation was at that time.”
Mrs O’Loan’s investigation upheld a complaint brought by two of Mrs McConville’s children.
Her report found there had been intelligence that she was still alive some time after being abducted from her home in December 1972.
The IRA insists the mother-of-10 was a British army informer, although a police ombudsman inquiry earlier this year found no evidence of this.
Mrs McConville’s remains were finally found at Shelling Hill beach in County Louth in the Irish Republic in August 2003.
Mrs O’Loan said: “By 16 January (1973) a spokesman was being quoted as saying the matter was being investigated but we have found no evidence of this.
“There is no crime file about any investigation of the abduction in 1972.
“Even if we look at the intelligence the police received which suggested that Mrs McConville was alive and had either left of her own will or was being held by the Provisionals in Dundalk, we found no evidence that either of these issues were looked at.
“An Garda Siochana (Irish police) have said they are not aware of an investigation by them into Mrs McConville’s death prior to the discovery of her body.”
Mrs McConville’s son Michael said he felt vindicated by the report.
“They didn’t do enough work on the case in the first place, I think it was a big let down for the McConville family,” he said.
“If police had reacted more quickly, my mother might have still been alive today. I think that to start an investigation 20 years later is a bit late.”
SDLP assembly member Alex Attwood said the report was “a deep indictment of the Royal Ulster Constabulary”.
“Questions must be answered by the police about their approach, and questions must continue to be put to the IRA to ensure that they account fully and publicly for their actions.”
IRA statement on McConville case
Republican News, 12 July 2006
The Provisional IRA has issued a statement affirming that Jean McConville had been an informer at the time she was killed in 1972 following a declaration by Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan that she had no evidence to corroborate the claims.
The IRA said: “Following a public request from the family of Jean McConville, the IRA carried out a thorough investigation into all the circumstances surrounding her death.
“That investigation confirmed that Jean McConville was working as an informer for the British army. The conclusion of this investigation was reported to Michael McConville. The IRA accepts he rejects this conclusion.
“The IRA regrets the suffering of all the families whose loved ones were killed and buried by the IRA.”
The mother and widow was one of the ‘Disappeared’, her body one of a handful unrecovered following 30 years of conflict. It was eventually traced to a County Louth beach in 2003.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: “I have been meeting with the McConville family for some time. My sole interest has been to help the family.
“Whatever about the circumstances surrounding Jean McConville’s killing, the burial of her remains was a great injustice to the family. And the family endured significant hardship in the years which followed.
“Sinn Féin has worked hard in recent years to resolve the issue of those remains buried by the IRA and still not recovered and we continue to talk to the Irish government on this matter.”
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