Jean McConville And The Mystery Of The Missing Bullets

If there is one major apparent inconsistency in Dolours Price’s account of the killing of Belfast widow and mother-of-ten Jean McConville, it is that only one bullet was found in her body when it was unearthed at Shelling Hill beach on the shore of Carlingford Lough in late August 2003.

Price’s account has each of her three IRA abductors firing a shot at her ‘so that no-one would know for sure who had killed her’. According to the autopsy carried out by two Dublin-based state pathologists, Professor Marie Cassidy and Dr Richard Shepherd, one bullet was fired from behind into her head, lodged in her skull and was the only slug found in her remains.

So either Dolours Price invented that story, for what reason can only be guessed at, or there is another explanation for the missing bullets.

A clue may be found in the report prepared by the then Northern Police Ombudsman, Nuala – now Baroness – O’Loan who cited inquest evidence given by a senior engineer working for Louth County Council about how bad weather may have altered the terrain where Jean McConville’s body was discovered.

She wrote:

‘The Coroner sought expert evidence as to the geographical history of the area in which Mrs McConville was found. A Senior Executive Engineer from Louth County Council gave evidence to the inquest in relation to coastal erosion at Shelling Hill Beach He stated that “an extreme storm event occurred on 1 February 2002,” and that it “washed away part of the carpark and roadway. The high embankment west of the car park was eroded and undermined”. He also stated that at the location at which Mrs McConville’s body was found “the erosion has lowered the beach by 10” to 12” in recent times”.’
So it is possible that the other two bullets were washed away in the storms that ravaged the beach in the Winter of 2002. The autopsy recorded that some of Jean McConville’s foot, hand and wrist bones were also missing, possibly swept away by the same storms.
But the definitive evidence of what really happened on Shelling beach in 1972 remains elusive. Not all the questions about the death of Jean McConville have been answered.

13 responses to “Jean McConville And The Mystery Of The Missing Bullets

  1. don’t bother listening to the PIRA narrative, they first claimed she was using a transmitter that wasn’t manufactured until 18 months after hear death, they now claim she was seen at a police station, it’s all lies

  2. Nuala O’Loan has some dodgy links to RUC/PSNI and The Met in London.

  3. Or perhaps the ballistics on the other two bullets linked them to someone in Republican community that they did not want exposed. At this stage are we to put Irish Govt credibility above Price’s?? Not in my book.

  4. The idea that Jean McConville was identified by her shoes during an identity parade also stretches credibility. The idea that she was walked up and down a line of suspects with a blanket over her with two holes in it for her to look out off like some school pantomime ghost is just too amateurish even for the most incompetent RUC or Army handler, Plus a single mother of ten children in the days before automatic washing machines, tumble dryers and microwave ovens wouldn’t exactly have much time in a day to observe IRA activity. Ten children in a Divis Flat and she was able to hide the existence and use of a radio transmitter from them?

    • you should really read properly before commenting on articles I have written. Jean McConville was not ‘walked up and down a line of suspects’. They were walked past her as she stood behind the blanket and no, it is not beyond credibility that she was recognised by her slippers. as we know from RUC records she also spent quite a bit of time in bingo sessions, so she did take time off from looking after her children. the radio transmitter was a stornophone which could fit easily into a jacket pocket. my advice is to do your research before making comments otherwise you risk making a fool of yourself, and can’t you come up with something more imaginative than terry tonic as a false name?

      • Terry Tonic wrote: “a single mother of ten children in the days before automatic washing machines, tumble dryers and microwave ovens wouldn’t exactly have much time in a day to observe IRA activity. ”

        All she had to do was look out the window.

      • How do you know that it was a stornaphone transmitter? Being a journalist you should be fully aware that just because you publish something it will not be taken as the definitive account and beyond question. After all what are these comments section for?

        A quick internet search of images of old Stornophome transmitters complete of aerial would suggest that this would require quite a large jacket. Again, keeping this from 10 children would take some doing.

        There are many narratives to this story. Yours is just as valid or invalid as anyone else’s.

        “and can’t you come up with something more imaginative than terry tonic as a false name?”

        This from user name The Broken Elbow?????

      • Because, as the Saville report noted, it was available to the British military in early 1972 and we published a photo of a soldier using it in Divis Flats in 1972, a soldier from the same regiment in Divis when Jean McConville was abducted. It is not, as you claim, a large piece of equipment as the photo shows. The Broken Elbow title comes from a badly broken elbow that I suffered in 2010 which nearly consigned me to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. This and all the information above is available to read on this site, if you had bothered to look. It is why ‘search’ buttons exist.

  5. I have to reiterate my disappointment at the media in this whole case.

    For years, they happily pushed the line that she had been killed because she had helped a wounded soldier. Nuala O’Loan’s report demolished that view, but there was little mention of it in the press, who preferred to focus on the claim that O’Loan couldn’t find any evidence that she was an informer. Yet, she reports that the army told the RUC that they had intelligence her disappearance was an elaborate hoax in 1973. No one else seemingly picked up on that. Also, no reports in the media on the sealed diaries.

    And, if we consider a recent revelation that the Army knew about “the Unknowns” in 1972, does that mean they knew about the disappearances? It would certainly explain why the army lied about Jean McConville when the RUC were actually on the right track.

    There could be a book written on the media’s refusal to look at this case properly.

    Ed, thank you for your work on this story.

    • you may be right christopher, but you have to remember, always, that the media’s greatest sin is cowardliness. rightly or wrongly, jean mcconville was elevated to near sainthood, not least by nuala o’loan whose report absolving her of informing has assumed near-biblical sanctity. to challenge this narrative means taking a lone stand and risking isolation. journalists, whatever else they may be, are essentially herd animals; they feel safest running in the same direction as everyone else. it takes great courage and conviction to break off from the herd even when the herd seems to be heading to the cliff edge.

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