Tag Archives: The Disappeared – Northern Ireland’s Secret Victims

Jean McConville – The Shameful & Unforgivable Murder of a Widow & Mother of Ten

Jean McConville

Jean McConville

The Shameful & Unforgivable Murder of a Widow & Mother of Ten

Jean McConville (née Murray; 7 May 1934 – December 1972) was a woman from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who was kidnapped and shot dead by the Provisional IRA and secretly buried in County Louth in the Republic of Ireland in 1972 after being accused by the IRA of passing information to British forces.

In 1999, the IRA acknowledged that it had killed McConville and eight others of the “Disappeared”.

It claimed she had been passing information about republicans to the British Army in exchange for money and that a transmitter had been found in her apartment.

A report by the Police Ombudsman found no evidence for this or other rumours. Before the Troubles, the IRA had a policy of killing informers within its own ranks; however, from the start of the conflict the term informer was also used for civilians who were suspected of providing information on paramilitary organisations to the security forces. Other Irish republican and loyalist paramilitaries also carried out such killings.

As she was a widowed mother of ten,  the McConville killing was particularly controversial. Her body was not found until 2003, and the crime has not been solved. The Police Ombudsman found that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) did not begin to investigate the disappearance properly until 1995.

 

Biography

Jean Murray was born on 7 May 1934 to a Protestant family in East Belfast but converted after marrying Arthur McConville, a Catholic former British Army soldier, with whom she had ten children. After being intimidated out of a Protestant district by loyalists in 1969, the McConville family moved to West Belfast’s Divis Flats in the Lower Falls Road. Arthur died from cancer in January 1972.

At the time of her death, Jean McConville lived at 1A St Jude’s Walk, which was part of the Divis Flats complex.  This was an IRA stronghold, from which attacks were regularly launched against the British Army and RUC. Since the death of her husband, she had been raising their ten children, who were aged between six and twenty.

Their son Robbie was a member of the ‘Official’ IRA and was interned in Long Kesh at the time of her death; he would defect to the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in 1974.

 

Killing

In the months leading up to her death, tension and suspicion grew between McConville and her neighbours.  One night shortly before her disappearance, she was allegedly attacked after leaving a bingo hall and warned to stop giving information to the British Army.

According to police records, on 29 November 1972 a British Army unit found a distressed woman wandering in the street. She told them her name was McConville and that she had been attacked and warned to stop informing.

One of McConville’s children claimed she was kidnapped the night after this incident, but others gave the date of the kidnapping as 7 December.

On the night of her disappearance, four young women took McConville from her home at gunpoint, and she was driven to an unknown location. Dolours Price admitted that she was one of those involved in driving her across the border.

McConville was killed by a gunshot to the back of the head, there was no evidence of any other injuries to her body.

Her body was secretly buried across the border on Shellinghill Beach (also known as Templetown Beach) on the Cooley Peninsula in the north of County Louth, about 50 miles from her home. The place of her death is uncertain.

Although no group admitted responsibility for her disappearance, there were rumours that the IRA had killed her for being an informer. Another rumour is that she was killed because neighbours claimed they saw her helping a badly wounded British soldier outside her home; however, there is no record of such an incident.

McConville’s children say they recall her helping a wounded British soldier some time before their father died in January 1972.

In a 2014 interview published in the Sunday Life, former veteran Irish republican Evelyn Gilroy claimed the person who had tended to the soldier was her [Gilroy’s] sister.

The IRA did not admit involvement until after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. It claimed she was killed because she was passing information about republicans to the British Army. Former IRA member Brendan Hughes claimed the IRA had searched her flat some time before her death and found a radio transmitter, which they confiscated.

He and other former republicans interrogated her and claimed she admitted the British Army was paying her for information about republicans. Hughes claims that, because of her circumstances, they let her go with a warning. However, he claims when the IRA found she had resumed working for the British Army, it decided to “execute” her.

Reluctant to kill a clearly desperate woman – not least because of the adverse publicity it would engender – the Brigade HQ Staff allowed McConville to live, albeit with a warning of fatal consequences should she be caught spying again. By December their patience was ended and after a short discussion over “banishment” versus “execution” her death was ordered through a majority vote. Among those supporting the latter option was the brigade OC or officer commanding,

Gerry Adams. However the manner of her killing was hotly debated. There were continuing fears that the acknowledged detention and killing by (P)IRA of a widowed mother of ten children (including a young political prisoner) would have a disastrous effect on support for the movement; that it would be exploited by Britain’s well-oiled propaganda-machine, as well as Republican rivals in (O)IRA; and that the slaying could reduce moral among local Volunteers. In the end those favouring a “public execution” were out-voted by those supporting a secret death sentence and “disappearance”, a solution which would have the added benefit of sowing confusion amongst their adversaries in the British intelligence groupings.

This was a practice that was already beginning to take root – albeit intermittently and with a great  deal of controversy – in the conflict-cockpit of Belfast. In this decision it seems that Gerry Adams was again in the majority camp.

See: AN SIONNACH FIONN for full story

 

Usually the bodies of informers were left in public as a warning, but the IRA secretly buried McConville, apparently because she was a widowed mother-of-ten. The IRA had first done this two months earlier, when it killed and buried two IRA members who were found to be working undercover for the British Military Reaction Force (MRF).

Aftermath

After her disappearance, McConville’s seven youngest children, including six-year-old twins, survived on their own in the flat, cared for by their 15-year-old sister Helen. After three weeks, the hungry family was visited by a stranger, who gave them Jean’s purse, with 52 pence and her three rings in it.

On 16 January 1973, the story of the abduction appeared on the front page of the Belfast Telegraph, under the headline:

“Snatched mother missing a month”

The following day, the children were interviewed on the BBC television programme Scene Around Six. The children reported to the social services, and were immediately brought into local council care.

The family was forcibly split up by social services.Among the consequences of the killing, Jean’s orphaned son Billy was sent to De La Salle Boys’ Home, Rubane House, Kircubbin, County Down, notorious for child abuse; he testified in 2014 to the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, describing repeated sexual and physical abuse, and starvation, saying :

“Christians looking after young boys – maybe they were Christians, but to me they were devils disguised in that uniform.”

Within two days of her kidnapping, one of her sons reported the incident to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the British Army. However, the Police Ombudsman did not find any trace of an investigation into the kidnapping during the 1970s or 1980s.

An officer told the Ombudsman that CID investigations in that area of Belfast at that time were “restricted to the most serious cases”. On 2 January 1973, the RUC received two pieces of information stating:

“it is rumoured that Jean McConville had been abducted by the [IRA] because she is an informer”

In March 1973, information was received from the British Army, saying the kidnapping was an elaborate hoax and that McConville had left of her own free will.  As a result, the RUC refused to accept that McConville was missing, preferring to believe an anonymous tip that she had absconded with a British soldier.

The first investigation into her kidnapping appears to have taken place in 1995, when a team of RUC detectives was established to review the cases of all those who were thought to have been kidnapped during the conflict.

In 1999, the IRA gave information on the whereabouts of her body.  This prompted a prolonged search, co-ordinated by the Garda Síochána, the Irish police service, but no body was found. On the night of 26 August 2003, a storm washed away part of the embankment supporting the west side of Shellinghill Beach car park, near the site of previous searches. This exposed the body.

Jean McConville boby.jpg

On 27 August, it was found by passersby while they were walking on Shellinghill Beach (also known as Templetown Beach) in County Louthat the eastern tip of the Cooley Peninsula. McConville was subsequently reburied beside her husband Arthur in Holy Trinity Graveyard in Lisburn.

Investigation

Police Ombudsman’s report

In April 2004 the inquest into McConville’s death returned a verdict of unlawful killing.

In 2006 the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Nuala O’Loan, published a report about the police’s investigation of the murder. It concluded that the RUC did not investigate the murder until 1995, when it carried out a minor investigation. It found no evidence that she had been an informer, but recommended the British Government go against its long-standing policy regarding informers and reveal whether she was one.

Journalist Ed Moloney called for the British Government to release war diaries relating to the Divis Flats area at the time. War diaries are usually released under the thirty-year rule, but those relating to Divis at the time of McConville’s death are embargoed for almost ninety years.

The police have since apologised for its failure to investigate her abduction.  In January 2005, Sinn Féin party chairman Mitchel McLaughlin claimed that the killing of McConville was not a crime, saying that she had been executed as a spy in a war situation.

This prompted Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole to write a rebuttal, arguing that the abduction and extrajudicial killing of McConville was clearly a:

“war crime by all accepted national and international standards”

The IRA has since issued a general apology, saying it :

“regrets the suffering of all the families whose loved ones were killed and buried by the IRA”.

PSNI investigation and Boston College tapes

 

In August 2006, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Sir Hugh Orde, stated that he was not hopeful anyone would be brought to justice over the murder, saying:

“[in] any case of that age, it is highly unlikely that a successful prosecution could be mounted.”

Boston College had launched an oral history project on the Troubles in 2001. It recorded interviews with republicans and loyalists about their involvement in the conflict, on the understanding that the tapes would not be released until after their deaths.

Two of the republican interviewees, Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, both now deceased, admitted they were involved in McConville’s kidnapping. Both became diehard opponents of the Good Friday Agreement and Sinn Féin’s support of it. They saw Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams as a traitor for negotiating the Agreement and persuading the IRA to end its campaign.

In 2010, after Hughes’s death, some of his statements were published in the book Voices from the Grave.   He claimed McConville had admitted being an informer, and that Adams ordered her disappearance.

In a 2010 newspaper article, Price also claimed McConville was an informer and that Adams ordered her disappearance, which has been strenuously denied by Ed Moloney.  Price, who died in 2013, said she gave the interviews as revenge against Adams.  Former republican prisoner Evelyn Gilroy, who lived near McConville, claimed Adams was an IRA commander and the only person who could have ordered the killing.

Adams has denied any role in the death of McConville. He said:

“the killing of Jean McConville and the secret burial of her body was wrong and a grievous injustice to her and her family”

In 2011, the PSNI began a legal bid to gain access to the tapes.  Acting on a request from the PSNI, the United States Justice Department tried to force Boston College to hand them over. Boston College had promised those interviewed that the tapes would not be released until after their deaths, and other interviewees said they feared retribution if the tapes were released. Following a lengthy court battle, the PSNI was given transcripts of interviews by Hughes and Price.

2014 arrests

In March and April 2014, the PSNI arrested a number of people over the kidnapping and killing of Jean McConville. Ivor Bell, former IRA Chief of Staff, was arrested in March 2014.  Shortly afterwards, he was charged with aiding and abetting in her murder.

In April, the PSNI arrested three people who were teenagers at the time of the kidnapping: a 56-year-old man and two women, aged 57 and 60. All were released without charge.

Following Bell’s arrest in March, there was media speculation that police would want to question Gerry Adams due to the claims made by Hughes and Price. Adams maintained he was not involved, but had his solicitor contact the PSNI to find whether they wanted to question him.

On 30 April, after being contacted by the PSNI, Adams voluntarily arranged to be interviewed at Antrim PSNI Station. He was arrested and questioned for four days before being released without charge. A file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to decide whether further action should be taken, but there was “insufficient evidence” to charge him.

The arrest took place during an election campaign. Sinn Féin claimed that the timing of the arrest was politically motivated; an attempt to harm the party’s chances in the upcoming elections. Alex Maskey said it was evidence of a “political agenda […] a negative agenda” by elements of the PSNI.

Jean McConville’s family had campaigned for the arrest of Adams over the murder. Her son Michael said:

“Me and the rest of my brothers and sisters are just glad to see the PSNI doing their job. We didn’t think it would ever take place [Mr Adams’ arrest], but we are quite glad that it is taking place.” 

In a later interview on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, he stated that he knew the names of those who had abducted and killed his mother, but that:

“I wouldn’t tell the police [PSNI]. If I told the police now a thing, me or one of my family members or one of my children would get shot by those [IRA] people. It’s terrible that we know those people and we can’t bring them to justice”

 

Anthony Mc Intyre and the Boston Tapes

 

See: The Disappeared – Northern Ireland’s Secret Victims

 

9th May – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

 

 

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

9th May

Friday 9 May 1969

Following his release from prison Ian Paisley held a ‘victory’ meeting.

Tuesday 9 May 1972

At approximately 2.00 pm shots were fired at a vehicle in the Kashmir Road area of west Belfast.

[On 1 December 2015 the PSNI listed this shooting as one of nine incidents it was investigating in relation to the activities of the British Army’s Military Reaction Force (MRF).

military reaction force

See Military Reaction Force

Friday 9 May 1975

In a statement at Westminster Merlyn Rees, then Secretary of Sate for Northern Ireland, said that recent violence in the region was as a result of feuding between Republican groups and had no connection with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) truce.

Monday 9 May 1977

Day 7 of the UUAC Strike

There were many demonstrations and roadblocks across Northern Ireland in support of the United Unionist Action Council (UUAC) strike. Ian Paisley joined farmers who were blocking the town of Ballymena in the middle of his North Antrim Westminster constituency.

Across Northern Ireland there were a series of similar protests with demonstrations, roadblocks and cavalcades taking place in Belfast, Enniskillen, Larne, Portadown and Newtonards. Uncertainty still surrounded the situation at Ballylumford power station with reports continuing to emerge about meetings involving workers at the plant.

Saturday 9 May 1981

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded a bomb at an oil terminal in the Shetland Islands. A quarter of a mile away at that time the Queen was attending a function to mark the official opening of the terminal.

Thursday 9 May 1991

Danny Morrison, formerly publicity director for Sinn Féin (SF), and seven other people were convicted of falsely imprisoning an Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) informer

. [Morrison was later sentenced to eight years in jail.]

Sunday 9 May 1993

The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) issued a death threat against politicians in the Republic of Ireland.

Thursday 9 May 1996

Michael Howard, then Home Secretary, agreed to the transfer of Patrick Kelly, an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner, from Maghaberry Prison in Northern Ireland to Portlaoise Prison in the Republic of Ireland.

Friday 9 May 1997

Darren Bradshaw (24), a suspended Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer, was shot dead by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) as he drank with friends in the Parliament Bar in Belfast.

[The Parliament Bar was frequented by members of Belfast’s gay community.]

Saturday 9 May 1998

A dissident Republican paramilitary group carried out a mortar bomb attack (at 11.50pm) on the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) station in Belleek, County Fermanagh. The mortars fell short of their target and one exploded as the RUC were clearing the area. There were no injuries.

[It was unclear whether the “real” Irish Republican Army (rIRA) or the Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) had carried out the attack.]

Sunday 9 May 1999

Brendan ‘Speedy’ Fegan (24), a Catholic civilian, was shot dead in a public house in Newry, County Down.

[There were allegations that Fegan had been a drug dealer. There were also reports that Fegan had previously been threatened by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). It was not clear at the time if the IRA was responsible for the killing.]

Houses belonging to Catholic families in Antrim and Armagh were attacked with petrol-bombs. The attacks were carried out by Loyalists.

Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), gave an address to the party’s Ard Fheis and stressed his organisation’s aims as emancipation, empowerment and economic liberation.

Tuesday 9 May 2000

Closure of Security Bases

Ronnie Flanagan, then Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), disclosed that five military installations were to close.

 

———————————————

Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

Today is the anniversary of the death of the following people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die

– Thomas Campbell

To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live forever

– To the Paramilitaries –

There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.

 5 People lost their lives on the 9th May  between 1979 – 1999

———————————————–

09 May 1979


Andrew Webster  (20)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by remote controlled bomb hidden in derelict block of flats, while on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Norglen Gardens, Turf Lodge, Belfast.

———————————————–

09 May 1984


Trevor May   (28)

Protestant
Status: British Army Territorial Army (TA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Killed by booby trap bomb while travelling in his car shortly after leaving his workplace, Telephone Exchange, Downshire Road, Newry, County Down.

———————————————–

09 May 1985


Seamus Ruddy  (33)

Catholic
Status: ex-Irish National Liberation Army (xINLA),

Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
Abducted from his flat, Paris, France. Presumed killed, body never recovered.

See: The Disappeared – Northern Ireland’s Secret Victims

———————————————–

09 May 1997


Darren Bradshaw  (24)

Protestant
Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
Off duty. Shot while in Parliament Bar, Dunbar Link, Belfast.

———————————————–

09 May 1999


Brendan Fegan   (24)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Republican group (REP)
Shot while in Hermitage Bar, Canal Street, Newry, County Down.

———————————————–

See: The Disappeared – Northern Ireland’s Secret Victims

 

 

Robert Nairac – Undercover Soldier & Hero His Capture & Death

 

Captain Robert Laurence Nairac GC (31 August 1948 –15 May 1977) was a British Army officer who was abducted from a pub in Dromintee, south County Armagh, during an undercover operation and killed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on his fourth tour of duty in Northern Ireland as a Military Intelligence Liaison Officer. He was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1979.

A number of claims have been made about both Nairac’s involvement in the killing of an IRA member and his collusion with loyalist paramilitaries, although he was never charged.

Whilst several men have been imprisoned for his death, the whereabouts of his body remains unknown.

– Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these blog post/documentary are solely intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors

Background

Nairac was born in Mauritius to English parents. His family – long settled in Gloucestershire – had ancestors from the south of Ireland. His family name originates from the Gironde area of France. His father was an eye surgeon who worked first in the north of England and then in Gloucester. He was the youngest of four children, with two sisters and a brother.

Nairac, aged 10, attended prep school at Gilling Castle, a feeder school for the Roman Catholic public school Ampleforth College which he attended a year later. He gained nine O levels and three A levels, was head of his house and played rugby for the school. He became friends with the sons of Lord Killanin and went to stay with the family in Dublin and Spiddal in County Galway.

This iconic picture of Robert was published in Republican News & was used widely by the IRA in press reports of his “execution” . It was taken by a fellow soldier and was not intended for general release. How the IRA got a hold of a copy is still a mystery.

The guy with the long hair is John Todd , who went on to join and serve time as an IRA terrorist

He read medieval and military history at Lincoln College, Oxford, and excelled in sport; he played for the Oxford rugby 2nd XV and revived the Oxford boxing club where he won four blues in bouts with Cambridge. He was also a falconer, keeping a bird in his room which was used in the film Kes.

He left Oxford in 1971 to enter Royal Military Academy Sandhurst under the sponsorship of the Grenadier Guards and was commissioned with them upon graduation.After Sandhurst he undertook post-graduate studies at the University of Dublin, before joining his regiment.

In fact he did not attend University of Dublin according to Author Alistair Kerr

Nairac has been described by former army colleagues as “a committed Roman Catholic” and as having “a strong Catholic belief”.

Military career in Northern Ireland

Nairac’s first tour of duty in Northern Ireland was with No.1 Company, the Second Battalion of the Grenadier Guards. The Battalion was stationed in Belfast from 5 July 1973 to 31 October 1973. The Grenadiers were given responsibility first for the Protestant Shankill Road area and then the predominantly Catholic Ardoyne area. This was a time of high tension and regular contacts with paramilitaries. Ostensibly, the battalion’s two main objectives were to search for weapons and to find paramilitaries.

Nairac was frequently involved in such activity on the streets of Belfast. He was also a volunteer in community relations activities in the Ardoyne sports club. The battalion’s tour was adjudged a success with 58 weapons, 9,000 rounds of ammunition and 693 lbs of explosive taken and 104 men jailed.

The battalion took no casualties and had no occasion to shoot anyone. After his tour had ended he stayed on as liaison officer for the replacement battalion, the 1st Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The new battalion suffered a baptism of fire with Nairac narrowly avoiding death on their first patrol when a car bomb exploded on the Crumlin Road.

Rather than returning to his battalion, which was due for rotation to Hong Kong, Nairac volunteered for military intelligence duties in Northern Ireland. Following completion of several training courses, he returned to Northern Ireland in 1974 attached to 4 Field Survey Troop, Royal Engineers, one of the three sub-units of a Special Duties unit known as 14 Intelligence Company (14 Int).

See: Military Reaction Force

Posted to South County Armagh, 4 Field Survey Troop was given the task of performing surveillance duties. Nairac was the liaison officer among the unit, the local British Army brigade, and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

He also took on duties which were outside his official jurisdiction as a liaison officer – working undercover, for example. He apparently claimed to have visited pubs in republican strongholds and sung Irish rebel songs and acquired the nickname “Danny Boy”. He was often driven to pubs by former Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, who was then an Army officer. Former SAS Warrant Officer Ken Connor, who was involved in the creation of 14 Int, wrote of him in his book, Ghost Force, p. 263:

Had he been an SAS member, he would not have been allowed to operate in the way he did. Before his death we had been very concerned at the lack of checks on his activities. No one seemed to know who his boss was, and he appeared to have been allowed to get out of control, deciding himself what tasks he would do.

Nairac finished his tour with 14th Int in mid-1975 and returned to his regiment in London. Nairac was promoted to captain on 4 September 1975. Following a rise in violence culminating in the Kingsmill massacre, British Army troop levels were increased and Nairac accepted a post again as a liaison officer back in Northern Ireland.

Nairac on his fourth tour was a liaison officer to the units based at Bessbrook Mill. It was during this time that he was abducted and killed.

BBC Panorama – Bandit Country, South Armagh

Shot by the Provisional IRA

On the evening of 14 May 1977, Nairac arrived at The Three Steps pub in Dromintee, South Armagh, by car, alone. He is said to have told regulars of the pub that his name was Danny McErlaine, a motor mechanic and member of the Official IRA from the republican Ardoyne area in north Belfast. The real McErlaine, on the run since 1974, was killed by the Provisional IRA in June 1978 after stealing arms from the organisation.

Witnesses say that Nairac got up and sang a republican folk songThe Broad Black Brimmer” with the band who were playing that night. At around 11.45 p.m., he was abducted following a struggle in the pub’s car park and taken across the border into the Republic of Ireland to a field in the Ravensdale Woods in County Louth. Following a violent interrogation during which Nairac was allegedly punched, kicked, pistol-whipped and hit with a wooden post, he was shot dead.

He did not admit to his true identity. Terry McCormick, one of Nairac’s abductors, posed as a priest in order to try to elicit information by way of Nairac’s confession. Nairac’s last words according to McCormick were: ‘Bless me Father, for I have sinned’

His disappearance sparked a huge search effort throughout Ireland. The hunt in Northern Ireland was led by Major H. Jones, who as a colonel in the Parachute Regiment was to be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross in the Falklands War. Jones was Brigade Major at HQ 3rd Infantry Brigade. Nairac and Jones had become friends and would sometimes go to the Jones household for supper. After a four-day search, the Garda Síochána confirmed to the Royal Ulster Constabulary that they had reliable evidence of Nairac’s killing.

An edition of Spotlight broadcast on 19 June 2007, claimed that his body was not destroyed in a meat grinder, as alleged by an unnamed IRA source. McCormick, who has been on the run in the United States for thirty years because of his involvement in the killing (including being the first to attack Nairac in the car park), was told by a senior IRA commander that it was buried on farmland, unearthed by animals, and reburied elsewhere. The location of the body’s resting place remains a mystery.

Nairac is one of nine IRA victims, whose graves have never been revealed and who are collectively known as ‘The Disappeared’. The cases are under review by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains.

See: The Disappeared – N.I Secret Victims

In May 2000 allegations were made claiming that Nairac had married, and fathered a child with a woman named Nel Lister, also known as Oonagh Flynn or Oonagh Lister. In 2001, her son sought DNA testing himself and revealed the allegations to be a hoax.

Criminal prosecutions

In November 1977, Liam Townson, a 24-year-old IRA member from the village of Meigh outside Newry, was convicted of Nairac’s murder. Townson was the son of an Englishman who had married a County Meath woman. He confessed to killing Nairac and implicated other members of the unit involved. Townson made two admissible confessions to Garda officers. The first was made around the time of his arrest, it started with

“I shot the British captain. He never told us anything. He was a great soldier.”

The second statement was made at Dundalk police station after Townson had consulted a solicitor. He had become hysterical and distressed and screamed a confession to the officer in charge of the investigation.

Townson was convicted in Dublin’s Special Criminal Court of Nairac’s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He served 13 years in prison and was released in 1990. He was part of Conor Murphy‘s 1998 election campaign team and as of 2000 he was living in St. Moninna Park, in Meigh.

In 1978, the RUC arrested five men from the South Armagh area. Three of them – Gerard Fearon, 21, Thomas Morgan, 18, and Daniel O’Rourke, 33 -were charged with Nairac’s murder. Michael McCoy, 20, was charged with kidnapping, and Owen Rocks, 22, was accused of withholding information. Fearon and Morgan were convicted of Nairac’s murder. O’Rourke was acquitted but found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for ten years. McCoy was jailed for five years and Rocks for two. Morgan died in a road accident in 1987, a year after his release. O’Rourke became a prominent Sinn Féin member in Drumintee.

Two other men, Terry McCormick and Pat Maguire, wanted in connection with this incident remain on the run. Maguire has been reported as living in New Jersey in the US.

————————

Man charged with murder of undercover British Army officer in 1977

A man has been charged with the murder of Robert Nairac, an undercover British Army officer, in Northern Ireland more than 30 years ago

Kevin Crilly: Man charged with murder of undercover British Army officer in 1977
Crilly was interviewed by detectives in the weeks after the incident but left for the United States before officers could arrest him on suspicion of murder Photo: PA
 

Kevin Crilly, 59, from Lower Foughill Road, Jonesborough, Co Armagh, is already facing charges of kidnapping and falsely imprisoning the 29-year-old Grenadier Guardsman near the Irish border in 1977.

The captain, originally from Gloucestershire, was interrogated, tortured and then shot dead by the IRA after being snatched from a pub car park near Jonesborough and driven to a field at Ravensdale, Co Louth. His body has never been found.

Prosecutors laid the murder charge before Crilly as he appeared at Newry Magistrates’ Court for a routine bail hearing on the two lesser counts, with which he was charged last year.

District Judge Austin Kennedy granted Crilly bail; however, he ordered him to remain in custody after Crown lawyers indicated that they may seek to appeal against the decision in the High Court in Belfast.

In the years after Capt Nairac’s disappearance, three men were convicted of his murder, but police have always said they were looking for more suspects.

Crilly was interviewed by detectives in the weeks after the incident but left for the United States before officers could arrest him on suspicion of murder.

Judge Kennedy was told today that the suspect had remained in the US for almost 30 years.

Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Barry Graham said that, when he returned, he took another name, explaining that Crilly was adopted as a child and had assumed his birth name of Declan Parr.

“The only reason he returned to Northern Ireland was because he was in a long-term relationship in America and that relationship had broken down,” he said.

The officer told the judge that he could connect Crilly with the murder charge and the two other counts of kidnapping and false imprisonment.

Crilly, dressed in a black leather jacket, white check shirt and blue jeans, spoke only to acknowledge that he understood the charges that he was facing.

His defence team objected that the prosecution had given them no prior warning that the murder charge would be put to their client or that they would be objecting to his bail.

Noting that Crilly had complied with all bail requirements since his original arrest 18 months ago and pointing out that, at that point, the defendant was aware that the Public Prosecution Service was examining whether there were grounds for charging him with murder, Judge Kennedy rejected the prosecution objection to bail.

The magistrate said any appeal against his decision would have to be lodged within two hours. He ordered that Crilly was held in the cells until the PPS signalled its intentions.

————————

On 20 May 2008, 57-year-old IRA veteran Kevin Crilly of Jonesborough, County Armagh, was arrested at his home by officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). He had been on the run in the United States but had returned to Northern Ireland under an alias after the 1998 Belfast Agreement. He was charged the following day with the kidnapping and false imprisonment of Nairac.

In November 2009, Crilly was also charged with the murder of Robert Nairac at Newry magistrates’ court during a bail hearing on the two counts on which he had been charged in 2008. Crilly was cleared on all counts in April 2011 as the Judge considered that the prosecution failed to prove intention or prior knowledge on the part of Crilly.

Nairac’s killing is one of those under investigation by the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

George Cross award

On 13 February 1979 Nairac was posthumously awarded the George Cross.

Captain Nairac’s posthumous George Cross citation reads, in part:

[…]On his fourth tour Captain Nairac was a Liaison Officer at Headquarters 3 Infantry Brigade. His task was connected with surveillance operations.

 

On the night of 14/15 May 1977 Captain Nairac was abducted from a village in South Armagh by at least seven men. Despite his fierce resistance he was overpowered and taken across the border into the nearby Republic of Ireland where he was subjected to a succession of exceptionally savage assaults in an attempt to extract information which would have put other lives and future operations at serious risk. These efforts to break Captain Nairac’s will failed entirely. Weakened as he was in strength – though not in spirit – by the brutality, he yet made repeated and spirited attempts to escape, but on each occasion was eventually overpowered by the weight of the numbers against him. After several hours in the hands of his captors Captain Nairac was callously murdered by a gunman of the Provisional Irish Republican Army who had been summoned to the scene. His assassin subsequently said ‘He never told us anything’.

Captain Nairac’s exceptional courage and acts of the greatest heroism in circumstances of extreme peril showed devotion to duty and personal courage second to none.

Collusion allegations

Claims have been made abouts Nairac’s involvement in the killing of an IRA member in the Republic of Ireland and his relationship with Ulster loyalist paramilitaries.

Hidden Hand documentary

Dublin Monaghan Bombings 1974 – First Tuesday -1993

See : Dublin Monaghan Bombings

Allegations were made concerning Nairac in a 1993 Yorkshire Television documentary about the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings of 1974 entitled Hidden Hand. The narrator of Hidden Hand states:

We have evidence from police, military and loyalist sources which confirms the links between Nairac and the Portadown loyalist paramilitaries. And also that in May 1974, he was meeting with these paramilitaries, supplying them with arms and helping them plan acts of terrorism against republican targets. In particular, the three prime Dublin suspects, Robert McConnell, Harris Boyle and the man called ‘The Jackal’ (Robin Jackson, Ulster Volunteer Force [UVF] member from Lurgan), were run before and after the Dublin bombings by Captain Nairac.

According to the documentary, support for this allegation was said to have come from various sources:

They include officers from RUC Special Branch, CID and Special Patrol Group; officers from the Gardaí Special Branch; and key senior loyalists who were in charge of the County Armagh paramilitaries of the day….

Holroyd

It was alleged by a former Secret Intelligence Service operative, Captain Fred Holroyd, that Nairac admitted involvement in the assassination of IRA member John Francis Green on 10 January 1975 to him. Holroyd claimed in a New Statesman article written by Duncan Campbell that Nairac had boasted about Green’s death and showed him a colour Polaroid photograph of Green’s corpse taken directly after his assassination.

These claims were given prominence when, in 1987, Ken Livingstone MP told the House of Commons that Nairac was quite likely to have been the person who organised the killing of three Miami Showband musicians.

The Barron Report stated that:

The evidence before the Inquiry that the polaroid photograph allegedly taken by the killers after the murder was actually taken by a Garda officer on the following morning seriously undermines the evidence that Nairac himself had been involved in the shooting.

Holroyd’s evidence was also questioned by Barron in the following terms:

The picture derived from this is of a man increasingly frustrated with the failure of the British Authorities to take his claims seriously; who saw the threat to reveal a crossborder SAS assassination as perhaps his only remaining weapon in the fight to secure a proper review of his own case. His allegations concerning Nairac must be read with that in mind.[36]

Barron report

Nairac was mentioned in Justice Henry’ Barron’s inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings when it examined the claims made by the Hidden Hand documentary, Holroyd and Colin Wallace

Former RUC Special Patrol Group member John Weir, who was also a UVF member, claimed he had received information from an informant that Nairac was involved in the killing of Green:

The men who did that shooting were Robert McConnell, Robin Jackson and I would be almost certain, Harris Boyle who was killed in the Miami attack. What I am absolutely certain of is that Robert McConnell, Robert McConnell knew that area really, really well. Robin Jackson was with him. I was later told that Nairac was with them. I was told by… a UVF man, he was very close to Jackson and operated with him. Jackson told [him] that Nairac was with them.

In addition, “Surviving Miami Showband members Steve Travers and Des McAlee testified in court that an Army officer with a crisp English accent oversaw the Miami attack” (see Miami Showband killings), the implication being that this was Nairac.[38] Fred Holroyd and John Weir also linked Nairac to the Green and Miami Showband killings. Martin Dillon, however, in his book The Dirty War maintained that Nairac was not involved in either attack.

Colin Wallace, in describing Nairac as a Military Intelligence Liaison Officer (MILO) said “his duties did not involve agent handling”. Nevertheless, Nairac “seems to have had close links with the Mid-Ulster UVF, including Robin Jackson and Harris Boyle”. According to Wallace, “he could not have carried out this open association without official approval, because otherwise he would have been transferred immediately from Northern Ireland”

Wallace wrote in 1975; Nairac was on his fourth tour of duty in 1977.

Robin Jackson was implicated in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974, and Harris Boyle was blown up by his own bomb during the Miami Showband massacre.

The Barron Inquiry found a chain of ballistic history linking weapons and killings under the control of a group of UVF and security force members, including RUC Special Patrol Group members John Weir and Billy McCaughey, that is connected to those alleged to have carried out the bombings. This group was known as the “Glenanne gang“. Incidents they were responsible for “included, in 1975, three murders at Donnelly’s bar in Silverbridge, the murders of two men at a fake Ulster Defence Regiment checkpoint, the murder of IRA man John Francis Green in the Republic, the murders of members of the Miami showband and the murder of Dorothy Trainor in Portadown in 1976, they included the murders of three members of the Reavey family, and the attack on the Rock Bar in Tassagh.”

According to Weir, members of the gang began to suspect that Nairac was playing republican and loyalist paramilitaries off against each other, by feeding them information about murders carried out by the “other side” with the intention of “provoking revenge attacks”.

The Pat Finucane Centre stated when investigating allegations of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries, that although Nairac has been linked to many attacks, “caution has to be taken when dealing with Nairac as attacks are sometimes attributed to him purely because of his reputation”.

Im reading a great book about Robert Nairac at the moment . I’ll do a review when I’ve completed it. See below:

Click to buy

See Forkhil – Bandit Country

See The Disappeared

 

Buy me a coffee or Gin .

paypal donation button

Thank you!