Northern Ireland

Columba McVeigh: Search ends for disappeared teenager

Columba McVeigh Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Columba McVeigh, 19, from Donaghmore, County Tyrone, was kidnapped in November 1975

The sister of a man who was murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in 1975 has said her family is in "torment" after another search for his body has ended without success.

Columba McVeigh, 19, from Donaghmore in County Tyrone, was one of 16 murder victims known as the Disappeared, who were killed and secretly buried.

A new search for his body in Bragan Bog in County Monaghan ended on Sunday.

"Someone knows where he is," his sister Dympna Kerr said.

She said: "It's impossible to describe the continuing pain and torment of another year passing and another search ending with Columba still lying in some desolate unmarked hole in the ground where he was left by his murderers.

"What cause is served by denying an ordinary Catholic family a funeral Mass for over 40 years?" she added

Despite numerous searches, three of the Disappeared have never been found.

They are Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh and Capt Robert Nairac.

The search was being undertaken by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR).

'Saddened and disappointed'

On Monday, Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin said that he was "saddened and disappointed" that the latest search for Columba's body had been unsuccessful.

In a statement, he added: "Columba's family have suffered too much pain, distress and anxiety over the years."

"I appeal to those carrying long-held secrets, from what were awful, terrible times, to share what information they have."

'Republican movement'

The most recent search took place for the teenager's remains at a section of Bragan Bog last September and was temporarily stopped in November. It recommenced in June.

Several previous searches in the bog have failed to uncover his remains.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jon Hill is a senior investigator with the ICLVR

Senior investigator with the ICLVR, Jon Hill, said it was a "bitter blow to the family".

He said that they had done "absolutely everything (they) could in often difficult circumstances".

"If Columba had been here we would have found him," he added. 

Lead forensic scientist, Geoff Knupfer, said everyone in the republican movement the ICLVR had spoken to had been "adamant that Columba was buried where they told us he was".

"We have no reason to believe that we have been deliberately mislead," he added.

He said there was the "possibility" that at some point Mr Veigh's remains had been removed from their original site and buried somewhere else.

Image caption The search took place at Bragan Bog in County Monaghan

"If he was moved than we need someone who has knowledge of that to come forward," he added.

'Devastated and angry'

In May, it emerged a reward of almost £50,000 is being offered for new information that results in finding the bodies of the Disappeared.

The anonymous donation of $60,000 (£47,191) was given to the independent UK charity Crimestoppers.

The ICLVR was set up to obtain information that may lead to where the bodies of the Disappeared are buried.

Information it receives is strictly confidential and is not passed to other agencies or used in prosecutions.

Mr McVeigh's brother Oliver said he was "devastated" and "angry".

"Angry that people who have information are watching us suffer and are doing nothing," he added.

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