Belfast Telegraph

Disappeared victim shot four times in head, inquest told

By Steven McCaffrey

A man who was murdered and buried by republicans nearly 40 years ago was shot four times in the back of the head, an inquest has heard.

Peter Wilson disappeared in 1973 aged 21. His remains were found buried at a beach in Co Antrim last November after information about his murder was passed to the authorities. His parents died without knowing what happened to their son.

His relatives had always blamed the IRA for his death, but the inquest heard that the investigators who located his remains were told he was shot by republicans acting without IRA sanction.

After the hearing, Mr Wilson’s family expressed relief that their gruelling wait to recover their loved-one's remains had ended.

“Today brings us closer to finding closure for our family,” they said. “The circumstances of Peter's death still causes us great distress, even after all these years.

“Peter was much-loved and we are so glad that we have been finally able to lay him to rest in Milltown (cemetery) and to finally have his death acknowledged and recorded at this inquest.”

Deputy State Pathologist for Northern Ireland Dr Peter Ingram said the remains recovered at Waterfoot beach revealed the 21-year-old had been shot four times in the head, causing “very rapid death”.

A fracture was also located in the victim's jaw, and the inquest heard that it could have been caused by a heavy punch.

Coroner John Leckey asked: “This was really an execution?” Dr Ingram answered: “Yes.”

The coroner told the family, gathered in a single row of the courtroom, that he was glad to have the opportunity to hold the inquest and issue a death certificate to the relatives. He added: “You have endured a lot over four decades.”

In 1999 the British and Irish governments set up the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR), which appealed for confidential information from paramilitary groups to help find the bodies of people abducted, murdered and secretly buried during the Troubles. Such information cannot be used for prosecutions.

The bereaved family thanked everyone who had helped them and they appealed for anyone with information on others among the ‘Disappeared’ to come forward.

“We remember today in a special way the other families of the disappeared who continue to search and pray for the return of their loved-ones' bodies,” they said. “The families of Kevin McKee, Seamus Wright, Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh, Robert Nairac, Brendan Megraw, and Seamus Ruddy. We pray that they too will be able to finally lay their loved-ones to rest.”

Encouraging those with information to come forward, they added: “It is also important to thank the person or persons who gave the information.

“They can see today that the process undertaken by ICLVR works — that the information they gave was dealt with appropriately and in confidence and with no repercussions for them.

“Today we ask others to provide whatever information they can to help the seven families of the Disappeared who are still waiting. We hope that they will be encouraged and strengthened to do the right thing and come forward to bring peace to their families also.”

Background

The inquest heard that the name of Peter Wilson did not feature in a list of Disappeared victims the IRA admitted to killing.

The commission's senior investigator, Geoff Knupfer, told the coroner it was claimed that he was killed by individuals “with affiliations to the republican movement”, but who were said to have carried out the murder without the sanction of the IRA leadership.

Mr Wilson's remains were subsequently located at Waterfoot beach which relatives said his mother Lily had often visited, unaware that her son was buried there. Mrs Wilson and her husband both died without knowing what happened to their son. His remains were identified by matching DNA samples taken from his family.

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