Police in NI have apologised to the family of an IRA murder victim after the Police Ombudsman criticised their investigation into her death.
Jean McConville was abducted and murdered in 1972
The report by Nuala O'Loan said a proper investigation into Jean McConville's murder in 1972 was not carried out for more than 20 years.
It found there was no formal police record of her disappearance, nor of attempts at the time to find her.
Police said they "apologised unreservedly" to the family.
"Police policy and practice into how it deals with missing persons and how it conducts investigations has changed significantly since 1972," a statement said.
"We apologise unreservedly to the family for any failings made by police."
Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton said that in 1972 more than 470 were murdered in Northern Ireland and people had to realise what the situation was like then.
"There were over 10,000 shooting incidents, these are statistics that are difficult nowadays to comprehend," he said.
"I am not using that as any excuse for failure in police action.
"I think if there is a failure in police action, then we need to say sorry and that is what I am doing, but I think it is important for people to realise just what the situation was at that time."
Mrs O'Loan's investigation upheld a complaint brought by two of Mrs McConville's children.
Her report found there had been intelligence that she was still alive some time after being abducted from her home in December 1972.
The investigation of her murder will now form part of the work of the police Historical Enquiry Team.
Mrs McConville, who was a widow, was killed after she went to the aid of a fatally wounded British soldier outside her home in west Belfast's Divis flats.
The IRA insists the mother-of-10 was a British army informer, although a police ombudsman inquiry earlier this year found no evidence of this.
Mrs McConville's remains were finally found at Shelling Hill beach in County Louth in the Irish Republic in August 2003.
Mrs O'Loan said: "By 16 January (1973) a spokesman was being quoted as saying the matter was being investigated but we have found no evidence of this.
"There is no crime file about any investigation of the abduction in 1972.
SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said it was a 'deep indictment' of the RUC
"Even if we look at the intelligence the police received which suggested that Mrs McConville was alive and had either left of her own will or was being held by the Provisionals in Dundalk, we found no evidence that either of these issues were looked at.
"An Garda Siochana (Irish police) have said they are not aware of an investigation by them into Mrs McConville's death prior to the discovery of her body."
Mrs McConville's son Michael said he felt vindicated by the report.
"They didn't do enough work on the case in the first place, I think it was a big let down for the McConville family," he said.
"If police had reacted more quickly, my mother might have still been alive today. I think that to start an investigation 20 years later is a bit late."
SDLP assembly member Alex Attwood said the report was "a deep indictment of the Royal Ulster Constabulary".
"Questions must be answered by the police about their approach, and questions must continue to be put to the IRA to ensure that they account fully and publicly for their actions."