Belfast Telegraph

Nothing found in search for remains of captain Robert Nairac

Robert Nairac
Robert Nairac

An area searched for the remains of former British Army captain Robert Nairac "was never a gravesite", it has been determined.

Cadaver dogs hired by former soldier and documentary maker Alan Barry had indicated that there may be human remains at the spot in Ravensdale Forest, Co Louth.

Captain Nairac was shot dead by the Provisional IRA on May 15, 1977 after being abducted from a pub in Dromintee, Co Armagh.

His remains have never been found, leaving him among the last three of the Disappeared from Northern Ireland's Troubles.

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) said that despite indications by the cadaver dogs the area searched "is not and never has been a gravesite".

The examination of the area on Tuesday was led by ICLVR’s lead forensic scientist and investigator Geoff Knupfer and was carried out by an experienced archaeologist who has worked on previous searches for the Disappeared along with an assistant archaeologist.

Mr Knupfer said that the search had proved fruitless.

”We were looking at quite a defined area at which the cadaver dogs had apparently given strong indications," he said.

"We carried out a careful and painstaking archaeological examination.

"If the subsurface had been disturbed by a spade or any other device or implement cutting into it to bury remains we would have seen clear evidence of that. There was none. The subsurface was pristine. It was never a gravesite.”

Mr Knupfer said that the search team had acted in good faith in their search for Captain Nairac's remains.

“One of the most important aspects of the Commission’s work is in relation to communicating sensitively with the families of those who are still waiting for the remains of their loved ones to be returned for Christian burial," he said.

"We have to make careful  judgments not least in terms of managing expectations.

"Over the nearly 15 years that I have been leading the ICLVR’s investigations we have never told families that we know exactly the spot where their loved one is buried for the very good reason that we don’t."

The forensic scientist said that there were no guarantees of results from any searches.

"We work from credible information and draw on years of experience with some of the best forensic archaeologists in Ireland and the UK to narrow down a site and all we can ever say with confidence is that if the remains are there we will find them," Mr Knupfer said.

"In the last five years we have conducted four substantive searches and recovered the remains of four of the Disappeared.

"We are currently searching for Columba McVeigh in Bragan Bog Co Monaghan and we hope and pray that that search will also be successful.

"But there are no guarantees where bodies have been secretly buried over 40 years ago.

"To suggest otherwise would be grossly irresponsible”.

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