'31 years of hell' for McConville children

The children of IRA “Disappeared” victim Jean McConville have lived through more than 31 years years of hell since their mother was murdered, an inquest was told today.

The children of IRA “Disappeared” victim Jean McConville have lived through more than 31 years years of hell since their mother was murdered, an inquest was told today.

Arthur McConville, her eldest son, said the mother of 10 was brutally killed for being a family woman and a good wife to her husband.

Mr McConville told the inquest into his mother’s death that her children’s lives were ruined the night eight masked IRA members burst into their west Belfast home.

“We just waited and waited from that night for years, but we never saw our mother again,” he told the hearing at Dundalk Courthouse in Co Louth.

Mr McConville said all 10 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 at around 6.30pm on the evening of December 7, 1972.

“We were all in a panic and all the kids were screaming,” he said.

Mr McConville, who at 16 years old at the time 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 the 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 not recovered following two official searches and was only found accidentally by a member of the public last August.

Her 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 in Divis Flats 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.

She was one of a number of the so-called “Disappeared” who were murdered by the IRA and secretly buried during the 1970s.

The IRA apologised for the grief caused to the families of the "Disappeared" last October, saying it was sorry their suffering had continued for so long.

Mrs McConville’s family said the apology meant nothing to them.

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