Prosecutors in Northern Ireland said Tuesday that Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and six other suspected former veterans of the outlawed Irish Republican Army would not face charges in connection with the 1972 abduction, torture and killing of a Belfast homemaker.
Adams was arrested last year on suspicion of involvement in the disappearance of Jean McConville, 38, a widowed mother of 10 who was suspected by IRA leaders in the early 1970s of acting as a secret British informer. Adams was released days after his arrest, with investigators forwarding their findings to prosecutors.
Adams, now a leading opposition figure in Belfast, has always denied any direct involvement in the IRA. He has also repeatedly claimed he was falsely accused in the disappearance of McConville, whose body was secretly buried and discovered decades later in the Republic of Ireland.
Northern Ireland's deputy chief prosecutor, Pamela Atchison, said evidence against Sinn Fein's Adams and others was "insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction against any of them."
During the nearly three-decade insurgency, which ended in 1998 with the "Good Friday" agreement, Sinn Fein was considered the political arm of the IRA. A power-sharing government of Catholics and Protestants has ruled Northern Ireland since 2007.
Adams' alleged immediate IRA superior in 1972, Ivor Bell, was charged last year in connection with McConville's murder on the basis of audiotapes from other IRA operatives that implicated Adams in the disappearance. Bell's trial has yet to begin.
McConville's remains were found near a Republic of Ireland beach in 2003, and experts determined she died from a bullet fired into the back of her head. She and more than a dozen other Catholic civilian suspected informers were killed by the IRA and secretly buried in the 1970s and early '80s. The IRA admitted responsibility for the deaths in 1999, without disclosing who ordered them.
The case implicating Adams, 66, arose out of a historical research project sponsored by U.S.-based Boston College. The project, conducted by a veteran Northern Ireland journalist and a former IRA prisoner, involved gathering oral testimony from paramilitary fighters.
A U.S. court in 2013 ruled that Northern Ireland investigators should have access to the tapes.