Army thought McConville disappearance a hoax

Published Date: 13.08.2006

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.

PDF: Full Public Statement


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 of 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.

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