Northern Ireland

The Disappeared: Fresh search for Columba McVeigh

Columba McVeigh Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Columba McVeigh was kidnapped, murdered and buried in secret by the IRA

The sister of a man murdered and secretly buried by the IRA has said she just wants his body to rest in his own grave.

Dympna Kerr was speaking as a fresh search got under way in County Monaghan for the remains of Columba McVeigh.

The 19 year old, from Donaghmore, County Tyrone, was kidnapped on 1 November 1975.

He was murdered after allegedly confessing to being a British army agent instructed to infiltrate the IRA.

He was one of 16 murder victims known as the Disappeared.

This is the fifth search at the bog for the teenager's body.

'Guide the diggers'

Mrs Kerr told BBC NI Radio Foyle: "I just want him in his own grave. I can't put it into words how we feel."

She said the family's hopes had been built up and dashed in the past.

Image caption This is the fifth time the bogland has been searched for remains

"We try to keep ourselves on track and say prayers that God will guide the diggers in the right direction," she said.

Mrs Kerr said she felt torn about whether or not to go to the site.

Digging is taking place in a section of Bragan Bog near Emyvale by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR).

Four searches, the most recent ending in September 2013, have been carried out there since 1999.

The first was by Irish police and subsequent searches were by the ICLVR.

Geoff Knupfer, the ICLVR's lead forensic investigator, said: "We remain convinced that Columba was buried in Bragan Bog and over the past five years since the last unsuccessful search, we have been working to refine the search area.

"That is what often has to be done when we are searching for a body that has been buried somewhere in a vast expanse of bog more than 40 years ago."

'Not good enough'

The remains of another of the Disappeared, Brendan Megraw, were found in October 2014 in Oristown Bog in County Meath, 15 years after the search for his body began.

Mr Knupfer added: "We were close to the burial place of [Disappeared victim] Seamus Ruddy in an earlier search before we recovered his remains in France in May last year.

"But 'close' is not good enough. The fact that we are back on Bragan Bog for a fresh search does not mean that anyone who has information about where Columba is buried should assume that it is no longer relevant."

Jon Hill, senior investigator with the ICLVR, who will take charge of the initial phase of the search, said: "We carried out a scoping exercise earlier in the year and are now concentrating on an area of around one acre in size.

"While that is relatively small compared to some of the searches we've carried out in the past, each one presents its own challenges and so I don't want to put a definitive time frame on it.

"Obviously we hope that we have an early success but if that's not the case then we'll press on for as long as it takes.

"We have a dedicated and vastly experienced team of contractors and forensic archaeologists working on the search.

"We all know what this means to the McVeigh family and we will do everything in our power to bring this search to a successful conclusion".

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