Belfast Telegraph

Ex-IRA commander Paddy Joe Rice, held over murder of Jean McConville, dies

By Suzanne Breen

A veteran republican who was recently questioned about the murder of Jean McConville has died.

Paddy Joe Rice, a former Officer Commanding of the IRA's Lower Falls 'D' Company, died after a long illness.

He had been a close friend of former Belfast Brigade commander, the late Brendan Hughes, who in the Boston College tapes claimed that Gerry Adams ordered the murder of the widowed mother-of-10 in 1972.

Mr Rice was interned in Long Kesh at the time of Jean McConville's abduction and killing.

She became known as one of the so-called Disappeared - a number of people abducted, killed and secretly buried by the IRA, usually after being accused of being informers. She was taken from her home in the Divis Flats complex on the Falls Road at gunpoint by four young women and after being interrogated, was shot in the back of the head.

Her body was discovered on a Co Louth beach in 2003. Some evidence has suggested that she was also tortured, as the post-mortem found cracked bones and mutilated hands.

Seven of her children aged under 15 survived on their own in their flat for three weeks until the story of her abduction appeared in the Belfast Telegraph and the family was taken into care and forcibly split up. No one has ever been charged in connection with her murder.

Paddy Joe Rice was not among those republicans who gave an interview to Boston College researcher and former IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre.

However, he became the first IRA member to speak out in favour of Mr Hughes' account, defending it when it came under attack from Sinn Fein.

Mr Rice, who was in his early 60s, will be buried on Saturday after a service in St Peter's Cathedral in the Divis area.

Last November, a former Sinn Fein representative, Pat Rice, was arrested by detectives in connection with the murder in what was an embarrassing case of mistaken identity.

The retired grammar school teacher was arrested at his Poleglass home. His lawyer has said he was issuing legal proceedings against the PSNI for wrongful arrest and was lodging a complaint with the Police Ombudsman.

Paddy Joe Rice was arrested by the PSNI a few weeks later. He was released without charge.

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