Gerry Adams spends second night in police custody

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams continues to be questioned by police in Antrim Serious Crime Suite in connection with the 1972 murder of Jean McConville
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams continues to be questioned by police in Antrim Serious Crime Suite in connection with the 1972 murder of Jean McConville

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has spent a second night in police custody after his arrest by detectives investigating the notorious IRA murder of a Belfast mother-of-10.

Officers are set to resume questioning the 65-year-old politician today about the killing of Jean McConville in 1972.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams

It comes as her eldest daughter said she is prepared to name the people responsible for her mother’s death.

Forty-two years after her mother was abducted from her flat in west Belfast, Helen McKendry said she no longer feared reprisals by republicans.

“What are they going to do to me? They have done so much to me in the last 42 years,” she told BBC2’s Newsnight.

“Are they going to come and put a bullet in my head? Well they know where I live.”

Mr Adams has always vehemently denied allegations levelled by former republican colleagues that he ordered the murder of Mrs McConville, who was wrongly suspected of being an informer to the British Army.

He was arrested at Antrim police station on Wednesday night after voluntarily presenting himself for interview.

The former West Belfast MP and current representative for Co Louth in the Irish Dail can initially be held for up to 48 hours without charge - a time period that ends at around 8pm today.

But detectives have the option to apply to a judge today for his detention to be extended for further questioning.

Mrs McConville was dragged screaming from her children in the Divis flats in west Belfast by a gang of up to 12 men and women.

She was interrogated, shot in the back of the head and then secretly buried - so becoming one of the “Disappeared” victims of the Troubles. Her body was not found until 2003 on a beach in Co Louth, 50 miles from her home.

Mrs McKendry’s declared willingness to speak out was in contrast to her brother, Michael McConville, who said earlier that he was still not prepared to name those involved even though he knew who they were, because of the consequences for his family.

He claimed he was too scared to tell detectives who he believed was responsible in case he or other family members were shot by republican extremists for informing.

“Everybody thinks that the IRA has gone away but they have not. If we tell we will be shot,” he said.

Mrs McKendry, who was 15-years-old at the time, said she was convinced that Mr Adams was involved, despite his repeated denials over the years.

“I have always believed that Gerry Adams was involved in the murder of my mother. Till the day I die, I will believe that,” she said.

Mr Adams’s long-standing party colleague and friend, Stormont Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, has claimed the arrest was aimed at inflicting political damage on Sinn Fein in the month of an election and said it was an example of the “dark side” of policing trying to flex its muscles.

But Prime Minister David Cameron rejected any suggestion that the arrest was politically motivated.

“There has been absolutely no political interference in this issue,” he said.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable Matt Baggott has vowed the investigation into Mrs McConville’s death will be “effective, objective and methodical”.

No one has ever been charged with the murder of the 37-year-old widow, but after years without progress in the criminal investigation there have been a series of arrests in recent weeks.

A veteran republican - 77-year-old Ivor Bell - was charged in March with aiding and abetting the murder. Five other people have been detained and questioned.

The recent police activity followed a decision by a US court compelling a Boston university to hand over to the PSNI recorded interviews with republicans about Mrs McConville’s murder.

Boston College interviewed a number of former paramilitaries about the Troubles on the understanding transcripts would not be published until after their deaths - but that undertaking was rendered ineffective when the court ordered last year that tapes that contained claims about the killing be given to detectives.

Mr Adams has always denied IRA membership or any role in Mrs McConville’s death and said in March he would be available to meet detectives if they wished to speak with him.

He presented himself at the police station by prior arrangement and issued a statement through his party minutes after the PSNI announced an arrest had been made.

‘’I believe that the killing of Jean McConville and the secret burial of her body was wrong and a grievous injustice to her and her family,” he said on Wednesday.

‘’Well-publicised, malicious allegations have been made against me. I reject these.

‘’While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, I am innocent of any part in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs McConville.’’

An investigation carried out by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman has rejected the claims that Mrs McConville was an informer.

Clearly embarrassed by the killing, the IRA did not officially admit responsibility for the murder until 1999 when information was passed to police in the Irish Republic.

It was not until August 2003 that her remains were found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.

Kieran Megraw, whose brother Brendan disappeared in 1978, appealed for information to help find his remains, and those of six others who have not yet been traced.

Mr Megraw told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “There are still seven of the Disappeared that haven’t been found. It never leaves you. When things come up in the news, it brings it back to the forefront of your mind, but it’s always there.

“It’s especially difficult when you go to the site where he is supposed to be and you can’t find him and bring him back home. It’s the same for the other six families.”

Mr Megraw said the family’s priority was to recover his brother’s body, rather than to bring his killers to justice.

“ I don’t know personally who it is,” he said. “For our family, the target is to get his body back from Co Meath to Belfast to be buried with his family.

“At the end of the day, if you go to the family grave, his name is there but his body isn’t there.”