IRA shot McConville in back of head

Jean McConville’s IRA killers shot her in the back of the head before taking her body to a shoreline in Co Louth, it emerged tonight.

It is believed they made her kneel before a gunman pulled a trigger.

Although it could be several weeks before the identity is confirmed,gardaí believe the remains are of mother-of-10 Mrs McConville, who was kidnapped by the IRA in west Belfast in 1972.

Her family today identified clothing found alongside a skeleton in a shallow grave in Co Louth.

A post-mortem examination revealed a single bullet wound to the skull of the woman.

After seeing the skeletal remains at a mortuary, Mrs McConville’s 41-year-old son Michael said: “From what I have seen today I do think it’s my mother.

“There is a sense of relief. No-one understands how much pressure we have been under over the last 30 years.”

The 37-year-old vanished after being kidnapped from her home by a 12-strong gang.

Her “crime” was allegedly tending to a soldier dying outside her Divis Flats home after an IRA attack.

Two searches of Templeton beach, one of them lasting 50 days, were carried out during the summer of 1999 and May last year. Nothing was found.

Those searches took place after the IRA admitted in 1999 that it had killed nine of what are known as the “Disappeared” – people who vanished at the height of the troubles and were presumed to have been buried in hidden graves by the IRA.

The bodies of three of the nine were recovered after the IRA eventually admitted its guilt. All had been shot in the head.

The remains, which were found by a man walking with his children close to Templeton beach, near Carlingford, will now be sent to Dublin for forensic examination. They will then undergo DNA testing in Britain.

Relatives may have to wait six to eight weeks before the body is officially identified.

A Garda spokesman said: “Shortly after noon today the forensic pathologist carried out a post-mortem examination on the skeletal remains which were recovered yesterday.

“The preliminary results have confirmed that the remains were those of a female and she died as a result of a single shot from a firearm to the head.”

Irish justice minister Michael McDowell said he hoped the find would help ease the family’s suffering.

He said: “My sympathy goes out yet again to the McConville family because for them this agony has been going on for many, many years now.

“The brutal, cowardly and vicious and sectarian murder by the IRA of their mother so many years ago is a crime which still is a huge mark of shame for people who claim to act in the name of Irish republicanism.”

He branded the murder an act of “unspeakable cowardice“.

Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said the party hoped the family was about to be put out of its misery.

He said: “It is our hope that the recovery of human remains at Shelling beach close to the site which was previously examined brings closure to the McConville family’s long search for their mother’s remains.”

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