Man, 73, arrested over Jean McConville murder in 1972

Man, 73, arrested over Jean McConville murder in 1972
Jenny Booth
The Times
Last updated at 10:31AM, October 30 2014

Police investigating one of the most notorious unsolved sectarian killings of The Troubles have arrested a 73-year-old man.

In 1972 Jean McConville was dragged, screaming, away 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 being an informer for the security forces.

The mother of ten was interrogated, shot in the back of the head and secretly buried. For many years she remained one of the “Disappeared” victims of Northern Ireland’s turmoil.

The case lay dormant for decades until her body was finally found in 2003 on Templeton beach in Co Louth, 50 miles from her home.

This year the police investigation sprang back to life with a vengeance, after tapes of interviews with an IRA car bomber that were conducted as part of an oral history project and kept locked in a Boston university archive were handed over to detectives.

The interviews contain potentially explosive claims made by Dolours Price, an IRA member who was convicted and jailed for a car bombing of the Old Bailey and who died in January. Though she consistently refused to co-operate with the police, she repeatedly claimed in interviews with journalists that she was the driver in the killing of Mrs McConville, and that the murder was ordered by Gerry Adams, now the president of Sinn Féin.

Mrs McConville’s son, Michael, said that if Mr Adams was implicated in the tapes then he should be put on trial.

The inquiry led to a series of arrests, of which the most high-profile was the four-day detention of Mr Adams.

Mr Adams, who has always maintained he never belonged to the IRA and vehemently denies involvement, was released pending a report being sent to prosecutors for assessment.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland today said that a 73-year-old man was arrested under the Terrorism Act and detained in Dunmurry in Greater Belfast. He was taken to the force’s serious crime suite in Antrim for questioning.

The journalist Ed Moloney and the former IRA member Anthony McIntyre, the leading researchers behind the Belfast Project, had believed their work would remain beyond the reach of the police until after the deaths of the interviewees.

However, in late 2011, Boston College submitted to an order from a judge to hand over the tapes to police in Northern Ireland under the terms of a treaty obligation.