Torment of bodies site families
The families of two men who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA believe their 40-year torment could be at an end, they have said.
Two bodies discovered in a remote reclaimed bog in the Irish Republic are thought to be that of Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee. The pair vanished from Belfast in October 1972.
Visiting the scene of a forensic search at a farm near Coghalstown in Co Meath, the families of both men said the find has given them hope.
"We hope that we can at last see an end to the torment that has lasted over 40 years and bring Seamus and Kevin home," they said in a joint statement.
The bodies will undergo DNA tests over the next few weeks.
The grave was found during a search on the site for Joe Lynskey, a former monk who also went missing from Belfast in the same year.
The excavation is being carried out by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR), which investigates the cases of the so-called Disappeared.
The Wright and McKee families thanked the commission and "whoever provided information" that led to the latest discovery.
"Without that information this would never have happened," they said.
"While this will change the lives of our families, our thoughts are with the Lynskey family and all those who still wait for the news that their loved ones have been found. We pray for them."
Both families appealed for privacy over the coming weeks and months.
Geoff Knupfer, lead forensic investigator with the ICLVR, said work to find Mr Lynskey will not end.
"Speculation at this stage is that these could be those two boys. We don't know and obviously it's too early to start jumping to conclusions," he said.
"But if it turns out that it is Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee we will continue to search this site for Joe Lynskey."
Members of the Wright family were first on the site this morning, spending several hours talking to ICLVR investigators and overlooking the grave area.
Some of the McKee family joined them later.
Mr Knupfer spoke of their mixed emotions as they were shown the site.
"It's a mixture of sadness and elation," he said.
"Sadness that it confirms, assuming that the identities are confirmed, that their loved ones were abducted and murdered, and then the elation that they will get some closure at the end of this."
Local priest John O'Brien was also on the farm to spend time with relatives.
Mr Lynskey's niece Maria visited the site last night.
After the remains are removed later today, post-mortem examinations will take place over the next few days.
The grave is believed to have been about one metre (3.28ft) deep when it was dug in the 1970s and remained untouched since.
The two bodies were dumped one on top of the other.
Samples will be taken from the remains for DNA examination at a specialist lab in the UK that the ICLVR has used previously.
It may be weeks before results confirm a match with profiles of living relatives already taken. Joe Lynskey was a former Cistercian monk from Beechmount in west Belfast.
He was abducted and murdered by the IRA in August 1972, but the terror group only admitted to being behind his disappearance in 2010.
Mr Wright, another of the Disappeared, was in the IRA and was murdered in the same year by his former colleagues who accused him of being a British Army agent and a member of the Military Reaction Force.
Mr Wright was married and 25 years old when he went missing in October 1972. He worked as an asphalt layer.
Mr McKee, again from Belfast, and in the IRA, was also murdered in the same year.
He was alleged to have been a British Army agent and member of its Military Reaction Force, an undercover unit. He was interrogated and murdered by the terror group.
This year saw the first dig for Mr Lynskey's remains.
Three other digs took place in an adjacent field for Mr Wright and Mr McKee.
The three Disappeared were among 17 people abducted, killed and clandestinely dumped or buried by republicans.
The list of 17 Disappeared includes Gareth O'Connor who was murdered in 2003. His body was recovered on June 11 2005 at Victoria Quay, Newry Canal, Co Louth.
The ICLVR has investigated 16 of the abductions and murders.
The most recent confirmed discovery was that of Brendan Megraw, whose remains were found in Oristown bog, also in Co Meath, last October.
Ireland's Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she hoped the suffering of families of some of those who were disappeared would be eased with the latest discoveries.
"Our thoughts are with the families of the Disappeared at this emotional time, awaiting final confirmation of the identities of the remains which have been located and hoping that all the remains believed to be at the location will be found," she said.
"We remember all those who still await the return of their loved ones' remains."