McConville son says family endured 31 years of 'hell'


The children of  Jean McConville have lived through more than 31 years of "hell" since their mother was murdered by the IRA, an inquest in Dundalk was told today.

At the conclusion of the inquest, the Co Louth Coroner, Dr Ronan McGuire, recorded a verdict of unlawful killing."That (verdict) seems a dry, unemotional way of dealing with what was, undoubtedly a cold, calculating and totally brutal murder," he said.  "The people who did what they did to Jean McConville lacked any basis of humanity whatsoever."

Mr Arthur McConville, her eldest son, said the mother-of-ten was brutally killed for being a family woman and a good wife to her husband.

All our lives have been hell without her. She was murdered for being a family woman and a good wife to my father
Mr Arthur McConville, son of Jean McConville

He told the inquest into his mother's death at Dundalk Courthouse that her children's lives were ruined the night eight masked IRA members burst into their west Belfast home in Divis Flats. "We just waited and waited from that night for years, but we never saw our mother again," he told the hearing.

Mr McConville said all ten children had been orphaned in 1972 following the murder of Mrs McConville, just months after her husband had died. "We lost our mother and father in one year," he said. "All our lives have been hell without her. She was murdered for being a family woman and a good wife to my father."

Mr McConville told the inquest that four masked men and four masked women burst into the family home in the Divis Flats on the evening of December 7th, 1972.  "We were all in a panic and all the kids were screaming," he said.

Mr McConville, who at 16 was the eldest child, said the armed gang demanded Mrs McConville come with them.  He said his mother was very upset and he asked to go with her. They initially allowed him, but when they got to the bottom of the stairs there was a group of about 18 to 20 people wearing balaclavas, he added.

"They put a gun to my head and ordered me to go back upstairs," Mr McConville said.

Dr Marie Cassidy, the State Pathologist, told the inquest Mrs McConville died from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.  A flattened .22 calibre lead bullet was found in her nasal passage during post-mortem.

Dr Cassidy said there was no pathological evidence to suggest if Mrs McConville was kneeling when she was shot.  She also said there was no evidence on Mrs McConville's skeletal remains to suggest that she had suffered any other injuries prior to her death.

Louth County Coroner Ronan Maguire repeated his warning that forensic evidence found during the examination of Mrs McConville's remains could be used in any criminal proceedings against her killings.

Mr Maguire ruled the recovery of Mrs McConville's body was not covered by an agreement between the authorities and republicans, before adjourning the original inquest sitting six weeks ago.  The IRA agreed to help locate the bodies of the nine "Disappeared" in 1999 on the understanding that the only forensic tests carried out on any bodies found would be for identification purposes.

Mrs McConville's body was discovered in a shallow grave on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth last August, 31 years after she was abducted by the IRA gang.  She was taken from her home after she went to the aid of a critically wounded British soldier.

The IRA admitted responsibility for her murder, claiming she had been an informer - an allegation her family vigorously denied. Seven of Mrs McConville's surviving nine children were in court and afterwards called on the IRA to clear her name. 

"This is not the end," ," said son Michael. "It's the end of the closure of our mother's death but the clearing of my mother's name will not end until the IRA admits that they killed my mother in the wrong. 

"They said she was an informer, the evidence proves she was not an informer. I will be seeking a meeting with Gerry Adams to try and get this issue solved."

"I want him to go to the IRA to ask them to clear our mother's name," he said.  "It's been inflicted on us that our mother was an informer and they are just trailing our mother's name down all the time and it's about time they put this to rest.

"For once in their lives they want to do something right and admit the killing of Jean McConville was wrong and it was wrong what they have put her family through for all these years."