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Family's anguish at an end as James Patterson, missing since 1991, is finally laid to rest

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Car containing human remains is recovered from the River Bann

Car containing human remains is recovered from the River Bann

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Mr Patterson disappeared in 1991

Mr Patterson disappeared in 1991

Car containing human remains is recovered from the River Bann

One of Northern Ireland's longest-running missing person's cases has finally closed after a man who vanished almost 30 years ago was laid to rest this week.

James Patterson (54) was last seen on October 6, 1991 after visiting the Mid Ulster Hospital.

Despite widespread searches in the immediate aftermath of his disappearance his whereabouts remained a mystery - until a dramatic breakthrough last month.

A blue/green Ford Orion matching the vehicle Mr Patterson was last seen in was pulled from the River Bann at popular tourist and angling spot New Ferry, near Bellaghy.

Human remains found in the car were identified as Mr Patterson, who had visited a friend in the hospital in Magherafelt on the Sunday evening before he vanished.

Following the conclusion of forensic examinations the remains were released back to his family and a funeral service was held in Magherafelt on Monday before burial in First Magherafelt Presbyterian churchyard.

Sean McCarry of the Community Search and Rescue team that discovered the vehicle said while there was sympathy for the Patterson family, there was also relief that almost 30 years of questions had finally been answered. He added that it should give hope to others.

"We would always be on the lookout for historical cases of missing persons when on training exercises and targeted searches," he said

"On this occasion we're pleased to have been able to help a family put an end to almost three decades of not knowing what had happened to James.

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Mr Patterson disappeared in 1991

Mr Patterson disappeared in 1991

Mr Patterson disappeared in 1991

"We knew from early on that there were likely to be human remains in the vehicle that was pulled from the River Bann, and subsequent forensic tests have concluded this case.

"Once we identified the car and worked with police it was clear that it was all connected to the disappearance of James in 1991.

"We have been in close contact with the Patterson family throughout and they have been very thankful for the help and support they have had over these past few weeks.

"I know they are grateful to have a resolution to the disappearance of James and we were pleased to have representation at the funeral on Monday."

Mr McCarry said solving a case after nearly 30 years shows that no family should despair of ever finding a missing loved one.

"On this occasion the Patterson family have found what they needed to find," he added.

"Obviously we are pleased to have been of service to them, but we are always on the lookout.

"We will continue to work and urge all others who are in a similar situation not to give up hope."

The PSNI is not treating Mr Patterson's death as suspicious.

"Police can confirm human remains were found following the recovery of a car from the River Bann at the New Ferry Road in Bellaghy last month," it said.

"The vehicle was recovered from the river in July and following examination it has been confirmed the human remains are those of James Patterson, who went missing on October 6, 1991."

Belfast Telegraph