PSNI granted 48 more hours to quiz Adams (UTV)

A court has granted police investigating the 1972 abduction and murder of Jean McConville more time to question Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.

Mr Adams has been held in custody at Antrim Serious Crime Suite since Wednesday evening when he was arrested after presenting himself at the PSNI station.

Police had until 8pm on Friday to question the 65-year-old however, following a court bid, they have now received a further 48 hours with the Louth TD.

A statement from the PSNI said: “Detectives investigating the abduction and murder of Jean McConville have been granted an extra 48 hours to interview a 65-year-old man.”

The former West Belfast MP has been held under the Terrorism Act in relation to the 1972 abduction and murder of Jean McConville.

The 37-year-old 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.

During a press conference at Sinn Féin’s office in west Belfast, Mr McGuinness said police had informed him they were to request extra time from the courts to continue their interrogation.

He said: “Yesterday, I said that the timing of the arrest of Gerry Adams was politically motivated.

“Today’s decision by the PSNI to seek an extension confirms my view.”

He said the detention of Mr Adams was “a very, very serious situation” and that the British Government’s handling and lack of arrests in the Bloody Sunday investigation, the Ballymurphy massacre and the Dublin-Monaghan bombings were examples of “political policing” and “political interference” in the PSNI’s investigations.

He added: “The indisputable fact is that for 40 years there has been a virtual amnesty for British state forces involved in killing citizens both directly and through state collusion with unionist death squads.

“There are many progressive and open-minded elements in the new policing arrangements who are wedded to accountable and impartial policing.

“But there is a small cabal in the PSNI who have a different agenda – a negative and destructive agenda to both the peace process and to Sinn Féin.

“Sinn Féin under the leadership of Gerry Adams will not allow these elements to succeed.”

Mr McGuinness said he believed Mr Adams would be completely exonerated and would continue to lead the party.

The MLA said Sinn Féin would “reflect” and “review” its support for policing if Mr Adams is charged.

However, he urged republicans to remain calm.

Mrs McConville, a 37-year-old widow and mother of 10 children, was abducted in December 1972 from her flat in the Divis area of the city and shot by the IRA.

She was one of the so-called ‘Disappeared’ and her body was recovered on a beach in Co Louth in August 2003.

Her son Michael has said he knows who took his mother, but fears reprisals from the IRA should he ever pass that information on to the police.

However, his sister, Helen McKendry who was 15 at the time of her mother’s murder, said she had no fear and would be prepared to name those responsible.

She said: “What are they going to do to me? They have done so much to me in the last 42 years.”

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

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.

Veteran republican – 77-year-old Ivor Bell – was charged in March with aiding and abetting the murder and five others 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.

Mr Adams has always strenuously denied allegations levelled by former republican colleagues that he had any involvement in the murder of Mrs McConville, who was wrongly suspected of being an informer for the British Army.

In March, the 65-year-old said he would be willing to meet with police for their investigation.

His arrest on Wednesday sparked outrage from Sinn Féin who said the move was “politically motivated”.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said it was an example of the “dark side” of policing trying to flex its muscles.

Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Peter Robinson both rejected their claims.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers revealed Prime Minister David Cameron spoke separately with both Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness about the arrest.

She said: “We must leave the timing of arrests to police and they have to act on the evidence available to them.

“I do not think it is fair really, to ask them to take on board the political time table and indeed if they did they could be accused of exactly the type of political policing Martin McGuinness has accused them of now.”

Following the arrest there has been criticism levelled at the British Government that it is more concerned with the crimes of others committed during the Troubles rather than those who perpetrated state crimes.

Ms Villiers added: “It’s for the PSNI to pursue law-breakers whether they are members of the security forces or not and indeed the PSNI is investigating some members of security forces.

“This is a government that doesn’t believe in amnesties and if crimes have been committed those individuals concerned should subjected to due process of law regardless if they are members of the security force or not.”

She added: “I recognise the difficulties in this case and have engaged with the first ministers and would urge everyone to respond in a measured way.

“Whatever the outcome there are still problems to be fixed in Northern Ireland and the best way to do that is by the political parties working together.”

On Thursday Martin McGuinness said “dark forces” were at work within the PSNI over the arrest, something Justice Minister David Ford rejected.

He said: “I see a police force with very high levels of confidence, higher than the Garda Siochana or many forces in Great Britain, and I see a police force carrying out its duties properly and appropriately, following up evidential opportunities where they present themselves and operating in conjunction with the community across a range of issues.”

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