BELFAST, Northern Ireland — For decades, Helen McKen- dry has demanded that Sinn Fein chief Gerry Adams come clean about the Irish Republican Army's abduction, slaying and secret burial of her mother in 1972, and his alleged role as the outlawed group's Belfast leader who ordered the killing.
As detectives interrogated Adams for a second day over the unsolved slaying of the 37-year-old widowed mother of 10, who was falsely branded a British spy, the daughter who led a campaign for the truth says she's praying for a murder charge.
"I'm hoping against hope that he doesn't walk out free," McKendry told the Associated Press. "Everybody, the dogs in the street, knew he was the top IRA man in Belfast at that time."
McKendry, alongside her husband Seamus, launched an often-lonely protest campaign in 1995 against Adams' denial of IRA involvement in the slaying of Jean McConville. On Thursday, the 56-year-old said she found it hard to believe he was finally in custody and facing police questions.
Under British anti-terror law, Adams, 65, must be charged or freed by tonight, unless police seek a judicial extension to his interrogation.
Northern Ireland has met news of Adams' arrest for the 42-year-old crime with a mixture of resignation and cynicism. Supporters and detractors alike agree on one thing, though: Adams is too important a figure in the peace process to go to jail, and he's never going to talk honestly about his past command positions in the Provisional IRA.
The underground army killed nearly 1,800 people — including scores of Catholic civilians and IRA members branded spies and informers — before calling a 1997 cease-fire so Sinn Fein could pursue peace with Britain and Northern Ireland's Protestant majority.
Two decades ago, Adams initially insisted that the IRA was not involved. Finally in 1999, the IRA admitted responsibility for the slayings of nine long-vanished civilians and IRA members, including McConville.