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Mum used to sit waiting for Disappeared victim Kevin McKee to come home, reveals sister

Relatives’ fresh plea for help as jury finds men were unlawfully killed

By David Young

Published 18/11/2016

Kevin McKee’s sister, Philomena McKee, and aunt Philomena Smyth
Kevin McKee’s sister, Philomena McKee, and aunt Philomena Smyth
Kevin McKee
Seamus Wright

The families of two men 'disappeared' by the IRA and found in the same shallow grave have used inquests into their deaths to ask for assistance in finding the bodies of the remaining missing victims.

Teenage student Kevin McKee and married labourer Seamus Wright were abducted in Belfast on the same day in 1972. Their loved ones never saw them alive again.

More than four decades later, in June last year, their remains were found lying together in reclaimed bogland in the Republic.

After hearing the cases separately, a jury at Dublin Coroner's Court yesterday found that the pair were unlawfully killed.

Both allegedly members of the IRA, they were murdered because the organisation suspected them of being informers. They each died from a single gunshot wound to the left side of the head.

Afterwards, the families urged anyone with information about the whereabouts of the remaining four Disappeared to give it to the organisation established to find them.

While 12 bodies have been discovered, Joseph Lynskey, Robert Nairac, Seamus Ruddy and Columba McVeigh remain missing.

Outside court, Philomena McKee, Kevin's sister, said: "Please, please come forward. We have come this far with information that has been given, so I would plead with anybody to come forward."

The Wright family added: "Today brings final closure on a long, painful process. We would appeal that all is done to allow the remaining four families to bury their loved ones."

Earlier, coroner Myra Cullinane heard that Mr McKee's mother was left mentally tortured after her son vanished, and convinced herself he ran away to get married.

The 17-year-old from west Belfast was arrested by police in early 1972. He then went missing for several months, apparently travelling to England amid rumours the IRA was looking for him. He returned to Belfast in the late summer of 1972, but vanished again a short time later.

Ms McKee told the court her mother, Mary, died in 2011 having never found her beloved son. "As a child, I used to go out with my mother to look for him - she used to sit waiting for him to come home," she added.

"She suffered from mental health issues after Kevin went missing. Her health deteriorated from then until her death. She used to say, 'Maybe he went off and married someone and didn't want us to know'.

"She was mentally tortured. The day they (the IRA) took my brother, they took my mother too."

In 1999, the IRA issued a statement admitting involvement in the disappearance of nine people, among them Mr McKee and Mr Wright.

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR), which was set up by the British and Irish Governments in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement, was tasked with finding the bodies.

The IRA later provided further information that Mr McKee and Mr Wright were buried in bogland in Co Meath. However, a number of searches in the area proved fruitless.

Their remains were ultimately found inadvertently last year on reclaimed bogland near Coghalstown, Co Meath, during the search for Disappeared victim Mr Lynskey.

Mr Wright (25), also from west Belfast, was taken on the same day as Kevin - October 2, 1972.

Geoff Knupfer, a forensic scientist with the ICLVR , told the coroner the commission had been informed that the asphalt labourer was murdered at the site of his burial.

The court heard that earlier in 1972, Mr Wright, like Mr McKee, went missing for a period.

In evidence, his sister, Briege Wright, said the family was told he had been arrested. He was then apparently released, but did not come home. Ms Wright said her brother's wife, Kathleen, and his father, William, went to England to meet him.

"He was with someone else who they believed was a member of the British Army," she explained.

Mr Wright returned to Belfast on Good Friday in 1972. His sister said that on the day he vanished, he came home from work at around 6pm and then left again.

"He was never seen again," she added. "The British Army went to his house looking for him, but I don't know why."

After the jury returned the verdicts, the coroner passed sympathies to the families and expressed hope that the inquests would bring some measure of closure.

Belfast Telegraph

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