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New search for teenager ‘disappeared’ by IRA

Excavators return to Co Monaghan site to search for Columba McVeigh, a teenager murdered and secretly buried by the IRA.

The dig site at bogland in Co Monaghan, where investigators are searching for the remains of teenager Columba McVeigh, during a previous search (Richard McCarthy/PA)

Columba McVeigh, 19, from Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, was last seen in November 1975

Excavators will return to a site at Bragan bog near Emyvale in Co Monaghan today to start a new search effort, the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) said.

Five previous searches, the most recent in September 2019, have been carried out in the area since 1999. All have been unsuccessful.

Columba McVeigh, Joe Lynskey and Robert Nairac, three of the Disappeared (PA)

The “Disappeared” are murder victims of the Troubles whose bodies have still to be found.

Geoff Knupfer, the ICLVR’s lead forensic investigator, said: “I’ll repeat what I said when we commenced the last search four years ago: we remain convinced that Columba was buried in Bragan Bog.

“The fact that we have not found his remains after a number of searches is deeply disappointing and frustrating especially for the McVeigh family.

“But in this work that is not in itself unusual.

“Back in 2014 we found Brendan Megraw’s remains 15 years after the first search on Oristown Bog, Co Meath.

“We constantly review information and refine it.

“While we never discuss the information we are working from suffice it to say we would not be searching unless we believed that there was a credible reason for doing so.”

Jon Hill, senior investigator with the ICLVR, will take operational control of the search.

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He said: “We are looking at an area of around two acres in total which we’ll work on in two phases.

Jon Hill, senior investigator with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains at Bragan Bog, Co Monaghan, during a previous search (PA)

“I can’t put a timeframe on the search but obviously we would hope to see success in phase one which starts today.

“In terms of how the search will progress, much will depend on the weather and the state of the bog as we move through the autumn.

“There is an additional challenge in that part of the area is forested but we’ll deal with that if we have to further down the line.

“We are working with a highly experienced team of contractors and archaeologists and we will do our utmost to bring this search to a successful conclusion for the McVeigh family.

“We all know how much it would mean to them.”

Mr Knupfer reiterated his appeal for information in four outstanding “Disappeared” cases – Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh, Robert Nairac and Seamus Maguire.

“The role of the ICLVR is purely humanitarian and our only desire is to bring the remains of their loved ones home to their families so that they can be given a Christian burial.

“But we need help to do that.

“The ICLVR is entirely information driven.

“We do not carry out speculative searches.”

The ICLVR can be contacted by telephone 00800-55585500, international +353 1 602 8655 or by email at [email protected]

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