THE son of Jean McConville, who was abducted and murdered by the IRA, has revealed he is still too scared to tell detectives who he believes is responsible for the crime, as police continued to question Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
Michael McConville spoke of his fears of making a statement to police in case he or other family members are shot by republican extremists for informing.
Mr Adams, 65, was still being questioned yesterday about the murder of the mother of ten. He denies any involvement.
Mr McConville said: “The IRA robbed a family of their mother growing old – they took everything away from us.
He said he had recognised local faces when an IRA gang arrived to drag his mother away screaming in terror from their home in the Divis flats in west Belfast in 1972.
He added: “Everybody thinks that the IRA has gone away but they have not. If we tell, we will be shot.”
His mother was abducted, shot and secretly buried, becoming one of the “Disappeared” victims of the Troubles. Her body was not found until 2003 on a beach in County Louth.
Mr Adams was arrested at Antrim police station on Wednesday night after voluntarily presenting himself for interview and spent the night in custody. Questioning resumed yesterday morning and continued through the day.
The former West Belfast MP and current representative for County Louth in the Irish Dail can be held for up to 48 hours without charge, with officers having an option to apply to a judge for an extension.
Mr Adams’ long-standing party colleague and friend, Stormont deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, claimed the arrest had been aimed at inflicting political damage on Sinn Fein with elections coming up, and said it was an example of the “dark side” of policing trying to flex its muscles.
“I view his arrest as a deliberate attempt to influence the outcome of the elections that are due to take place in three weeks’ time, north and south on this island,” he said.
“That raises very serious questions around why that is the case and what is the agenda.”
But Prime Minister David Cameron said: “There has been absolutely no political interference in this issue.
“We have an independent judicial system, both here in England and also in Northern Ireland. We have independent policing authorities, independent prosecuting authorities. Those are vital parts of the free country and the free society we enjoy today.”
Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable Matt Baggott would not comment on the arrest but said the investigation would be “effective, objective and methodical”.
Stormont’s Democratic Unionist first minister, Peter Robinson, earlier addressed the perceived threat to Mrs McConville’s son.
“We have had a lot of words from Sinn Fein about how wrong what happened to Mrs McConville was,” he said.
“Here is an opportunity. This is the same republican movement of which they are a part, that the people who carried out this act were a part – let them meet Michael McConville, let Michael McConville impart to them the names of those who were involved.
“I challenge Sinn Fein that they should do their civic duty and fulfil their responsibility of handing over those names to the PSNI.”
Mr Adams has rejected claims by former republican colleagues that he had a role in ordering the death of Mrs McConville, who was wrongly accused of passing information to the British Army in Belfast.
No-one has ever been charged with the murder of the 37-year-old widow but there have been several arrests in recent weeks.
‘I was 11 when the IRA gang barged in. We were holding on to our mother, crying and squealing’
JEAN McColville cried and screamed as she was dragged away from her family to be murdered by the IRA, her son said yesterday.
She was taken down the stairs of a high-rise block of flats, bundled into a van and never seen again, wrongly suspected of giving information to the security forces in republican West Belfast at the height of the conflict.
Michael McConville said her 80th birthday would have been approaching this year.
He told how the children looked out of the window and saw the gang putting their mother into a van, which drove off with one car in front and one behind.
Mr McConville said: “I would have liked to have seen her being 80. I would have liked to have seen her seeing her children and grandchildren growing up. She missed all that.”
The day before, the IRA had gone to a bingo hall and taken her outside, beating her until she did not know where she was, Mr McConville said.
She was found, disorientated and wandering the streets, by the British Army. The family went to the army’s “police station” and took her home.
Mr McConville said: “She had cuts and bruises all over her face and around her arms and legs. She said that the IRA had done it. We wanted her to go to her mother’s house – my grandmother lived in East Belfast. She said she was not going as she had nothing to hide.”
He described what happened that evening, between 5:30pm and 6pm, after a rap on the door. “I was 11 years of age when the IRA gang came in and trailed our mother out of our arms,” he said. “A rap came to the door, they barged their way in. Me and all my brothers and sisters were holding on to my mother, crying and squealing.”
He said his mother had been in an “awful state”, having been taken away the night before from the bingo hall and beaten.
Of his mother’s abductors, he recalled: “Some had masks and some had not.”
He recognised some of the faces as neighbours, people living in the same Divis flats as them. “We knew these people by name and they knew us by name.
“We held on to our mother and crying and screaming, and our mother was crying. She was squealing as well because she probably knew that if she went outside what she was going to go through from the night before.”
Her abductors told her family they were taking her for a only short period of time and allowed another son to leave the room with her. Once in the stairwell, they put a gun to his head and told him to “f*** off”.
Mr McConville added: “As a child, I was thinking why do people do this, the brutality of what they did the night before, why do this to my mother?”
He was put in a children’s home. “I knew then that my mother was dead,” he said.
His siblings were put in separate properties, meeting rarely. He said: “When I see my younger brothers and sisters, the way they have turned out, it really wrecks me. It should never have happened to us.”