The remains of a man who had been reported missing over 29 years ago have finally been laid to rest in Co Londonderry.
Tobermore man James Patterson (54) had been last seen on October 6, 1991 and despite widespread searches in the immediate aftermath of his disappearance no trace of his whereabouts had ever been found.
When a car matching the vehicle Mr Patterson was last seen in, a blue/green Ford Orion, was pulled from the River Bann at popular tourist and angling spot New Ferry near Bellaghy in July, hope was rekindled for his family that they might finally have an answer.
Police confirmed that human remains found in the vehicle had been identified as Mr Patterson, who had visited a friend in the Mid Ulster Hospital in Magherafelt on the Sunday evening before vanishing without trace.
Following the conclusion of forensic examinations, Mr Patterson’s 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, who led the Community Search and Rescue team to the discovery of the vehicle in the River Bann said that while there was sympathy for the Patterson family, there was also relief that almost 30 years of questions had finally been answered.
“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.
“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 pleased to have representation at the funeral on Monday.”
Mr McCarry said the fact that the mystery of Mr Patterson’s disappearance was solved nearly 30 years later shows that no family should ever give up hope of getting the answers they need.
“On this occasion the Patterson family have found what they needed to find,” he said.
“Obviously we are pleased to have been of service to them, but we are always on the look. We will continue to work and urge all others who are in a similar situation not to give up hope.”
PSNI said they were not treating the death of Mr Patterson 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,” the PSNI 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 6th October 1991.
“The family have been informed and request for privacy at this time.”