Excavations continued throughout the day at a beach car park just south of the border in County Louth, where members of the McConville family gathered as Gardai searched for the body of their mother, Jean. She was killed by the IRA in 1972, orphaning her 10 children. The nine who are still alive, many of whom have led troubled lives, were yesterday reunited for the first time in many years at Templeton beach near Carlingford.
The IRA has provided the authorities with information on the location of eight bodies, leading to searches in the counties of Louth, Wicklow and Monaghan, and at two sites in Co Meath. On Friday the body of a ninth victim, Eamon Molloy, was found in a coffin left above ground in a graveyard close to the border.
The initial expectation that recovery of the other bodies would be a relatively simple matter was yesterday dispelled by a senior Garda officer. Superintendent John Farrelly said: "It could be some time yet before any of the bodies are recovered. The information we have received indicates that the remaining bodies will be located at these particular sites.
"But I have to emphasise that is going to be a difficult, prolonged and protracted investigation leading to the actual recovery of the bodies. People will have to be patient. We are doing the best we can at the moment, but we do believe it will take some time."
At Templeton beach, police in boilersuits dug up part of a tarmac car park which had been constructed some years after Mrs McConville's disappearance. Her eldest daughter, Helen McKendry, who has been at the forefront of the campaign to have the IRA locate the graves of those known as "the disappeared", watched the work for much of the day.
She was later joined by her brothers and sisters. Her husband, Seamus McKendry, said: "In a warped sense we are delighted to be here. It is the final chapter of 27 years of agony."
The Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Patrick Walsh, said: "It has been a very heart-rending affair."
Wait continues, page 2Reuse content