Unknown donor offers $60k reward for help in finding Disappeared bodies
The brother of a teenager murdered by the IRA and buried in secret during the Troubles has described a $20,000 (£15.7k) reward for information leading to the recovery of the body as a "marvellous and unbelievable gesture".
Oliver McVeigh issued his heartfelt appeal as an anonymous donor offered a total of $60,000 (£47k) for information resulting in the recovery of the remains of the three outstanding 'Disappeared' cases.
As well as Columba McVeigh, they are Belfast man Joe Lynskey and undercover soldier Robert Nairac.
Mr McVeigh (19), from Donaghmore in Co Tyrone, was abducted, shot and secretly buried in November 1975.
Republicans with knowledge of the crime have told the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) in confidence that he was buried in Bragan bog near Emyvale in Co Monaghan.
But five previous searches have not uncovered his remains.
The most recent search was suspended last November after six weeks because of bad weather.
Mr McVeigh's brother Oliver confirmed last night that the search is due to recommence within a few weeks.
He urged those who know what happened to him "to do the right thing and take it off their conscience", and said the cash reward could help to finally bring closure to the three families. "Anything that can advance the possibility of recovering Columba's body has to be welcomed," he said. "As a family all we have ever wanted is to be able to bury him alongside his mother and father in a Christian grave.
"You never know now perhaps someone who is in financial difficulty and has some information will come forward."
The independent charity Crimestoppers says the reward is for new information which results in locating one or more of the three bodies.
The unknown donor has offered $20,000 for the recovery of each body, which can only be claimed for information that goes directly to Crimestoppers.
This information will only be used for the recovery of the bodies and is strictly not for investigation by police or any other law enforcement.
It will be passed only to the ICLVR and no one else.
Fiona McCormack, Director of Operations at Crimestoppers, said: "People giving information can be safe in the knowledge that no one will ever know who they are - not even us.
"The Commission is doing an excellent job and to date the remains of 13 of the 16 Disappeared have been recovered.
"Our reward is not about finding out what happened to these people.
"The families of those who have yet to be found deserve to be able to hold a long-overdue funeral for their relatives," she added.
Geoff Knupfer, the ICLVR's lead investigator, said that if the offer of a reward results in the recovery of the remains of any or all of the three, it will have helped close a chapter of a terrible story in the lives of families who have suffered decades of torment not knowing where their loved ones were buried.
"Neither Crimestoppers nor the ICLVR know the identity of the donor," he added.
"A reward of $20,000 in each of the three outstanding cases is substantial and whether or not it helps bring forward information that we haven't had to date and which results in the location and recovery of the remains, we'll have to wait to see.
"If it does it will be a hugely significant breakthrough.
"We should never lose sight of the fact that the whole issue of the Disappeared is fundamentally a humanitarian one.
"There are three families who have suffered so much and are still waiting for their loved ones to be brought home for Christian burial. That is the sole remit of the ICLVR".
Crimestoppers is urging those with new information on the locations of Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh or Robert Nairac to use its anonymous reporting service, either by telephone on the 0800 555 111 number or via the untraceable anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org