The body of one of the IRA's Disappeared victims has been formally identified weeks after being dug out of a bog in the Irish Republic.
The remains of Brendan Megraw, from Twinbrook, west Belfast, were discovered by a drainage ditch in the middle of Oristown bog, Co Meath, on Wednesday October 1 as forensic investigators prepared for an extensive dig.
Frank Murray and Sir Ken Bloomfield, commissioners of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR), confirmed the formal identification following DNA tests at a UK lab.
"The thoughts of everyone in the commission are with the Megraw family at this difficult time," the investigators said.
The commission said Dr Brian Farrell, Dublin City Coroner, accepted the lab tests as evidence of identification and will shortly authorise the release of the remains to the family.
An inquest will be held at a later date and the family have indicated that funeral arrangements will be announced in due course with plans to have Mr Megraw buried with his late mother in Glenavy cemetery near Belfast.
Mr Megraw, was abducted by the IRA on Saturday April 8 1978 and murdered and secretly buried. He was a newly-wed, 23 and awaiting the birth of his daughter.
His kidnappers had drugged his wife Marie in their home as they waited for his return, and as they took him away they warned her not to worry or contact police.
The Megraw family were only told by the IRA in 1999 that he was one of the Disappeared and his body had been dumped on the bogland near the town of Kells.
The discovery was made by contractors working on behalf of the ICLVR as they carried out preparatory works on Oristown bog.
More detailed forensic excavations were organised after specific information was handed over in recent months to the commission, set up by the British and Irish governments to liaise with former paramilitaries to find the Disappeared.
Mr Megraw was one of 17 people abducted, killed and clandestinely buried by republicans.
The commission investigated 16 of the Disappeared.
Mr Megraw's brothers Sean and Kieran spoke of their shock at the relatively quick discovery when the commission investigators returned to Oristown earlier this year after confirming new information after so many years searching in vain.
Separate searches have also taken place on bogland a few miles away from where Mr Megraw was buried, near Wilkinstown, Co Meath for the remains of Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright, both of whom were taken by the IRA in October 1972.
It is also suspected Joseph Lynskey, a former Cistercian monk taken from the Beechmount area of west Belfast in the summer of 1972, was also buried somewhere in the region.
Investigators believe one person living locally may hold vital clues to several families' decades-long quest to find the bodies of loved ones.
Alex Attwood, Stormont MLA for the SDLP, said his thoughts were with the Megraw family following the news.
"All our thoughts are also with all the families of the Disappeared, for those whose remains have been found and those who remain unfound," he said.
"The work of the ICLVR must again be acknowledged. Their diligent and persistent efforts will see the return of a body of the Disappeared to a family.
"I hope that this announcement will in its own way accelerate the enduring challenge of addressing the past comprehensively."