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Relatives of murdered men plead for remaining 'Disappeared' to be recovered

Published 17/11/2016

A six-person jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of Kevin McKee (Wave Trauma Centre/PA)
A six-person jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of Kevin McKee (Wave Trauma Centre/PA)
A portrait of Seamus Wright whose inquest is finally being held.

Families of two "Disappeared" IRA victims who were found in the same shallow grave have used their inquests to plead for help finding the bodies of those who remain missing.

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

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

A jury at Dublin Coroner's Court found both were unlawfully killed after hearing the cases separately on Thursday.

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

After the verdicts were delivered, both families urged those with information about the whereabouts of the remaining four Disappeared to give it to the cross-border body established to find them.

While 12 bodies have been found, 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."

In statement, the Wright family said: "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 the coroner Myra Cullinane heard that Mr McKee's heartbroken mother was left mentally tortured as she tried to convince herself he had run away to marry.

The 17-year-old from west Belfast was arrested by police in early 1972.

He then went missing for a period of months, apparently having travelled to England, amid rumours the IRA were 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 stated.

"She suffered from mental health issues since 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'."

Ms McKee added: "She was mentally tortured. The day they took my brother they took my mother too."

In 1999, the IRA issued a statement admitting involvement in the disappearance of nine people - two of whom were 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 peace agreement, was tasked with finding the bodies.

The Provisional movement provided further information that the pair had been buried in bogland in Co Meath.

A number of searches in subsequent years proved fruitless.

The bodies 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, had gone missing for a period.

In evidence, his sister Briege Wright said the family were told he had been arrested. He was then apparently released but did not come home.

Ms Wright said his then wife Kathleen and his father William travelled to England to meet him.

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

Mr Wright returned to Belfast on Good Friday 1972.

His sister said on the day he vanished again he had come home to his wife from work 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 respective verdicts, the coroner passed sympathies to the families and expressed hope the inquests could bring some measure of closure.

Relatives of other Disappeared victims attended Mr McKee's inquest.

Sean Megraw, whose brother Brendan's body was found in 2014, and Maria Lynskey, niece of Mr Lynskey, watched proceedings from the public gallery.

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