Northern Ireland

Jean McConville: The Disappeared mother-of-ten

Jean McConville and family
Image caption Widow Jean McConville left behind 10 children when she was abducted and murdered

Jean McConville was not the only person to be murdered and secretly buried during Northern Ireland's Troubles, but her case has been one of the most high profile.

The mother-of-ten, a Protestant, was originally from east Belfast, and converted to Catholicism after marrying Arthur McConville.

After being intimidated out of east Belfast, the family moved to west Belfast and set up home in the Divis Flats on the Lower Falls Road.

Not long after the move, her husband died in 1971.

She was taken from her home by the IRA in December 1972.

There had been speculation that she was taken after being seen by neighbours helping an injured British soldier. Others claimed she was an informer, but this was dismissed after an official investigation by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

In a BBC documentary last year, one of Mrs McConville's daughters, Agnes, spoke for the first time about her mother's abduction.

Image caption Agnes McConville described seeing her mother being taken away to be murdered

She recalled hearing her mother squealing as she was taken away from her home by a number of men and women and thrown in the back of a van.

"That was the last time that we saw her," she said.

It is believed the mother-of-ten was held at a number of houses, before she was shot.


Her disappearance initially gained extensive media attention in the run-up to Christmas - her children were interviewed and begged for information about their mother.

Their pleas came to nothing.

Within the community, republicans put out the message that she was merely 'lying low', and her story gradually faded from the headlines.

In the intervening years, the IRA always denied any involvement in her disappearance.

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Media captionMichael McConville was 11 years old when his mother was abducted from her home in the Divis area of Belfast

It wasn't until the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains was established in 1999 that her name resurfaced in the headlines.

Secretly buried

The body was set up by the British and Irish governments to obtain information in strictest confidence to help locate the remains of a number of people who had disappeared during the Troubles.

Those known as the Disappeared had been abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republicans.

The IRA admitted that year that it murdered and buried at secret locations nine of the Disappeared, including Jean McConville.

It was several years later that her body was finally found on Shelling Hill Beach in County Louth in the Republic of Ireland in 2003.

Irish police confirmed that she had died from a bullet wound to the head.

In the days that followed, the IRA issued a statement apologising for the grief it had caused the families of the Disappeared and that their suffering had continued for so long.

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