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The Disappeared: Lead investigator says no evidence of human burial at Louth site, after ex-soldier's claims

An archaeologist has examined the site at Ravensdale in the wake of the claims, which were made public last week.

Robert Nairac
Robert Nairac
Image: RTÉ

THE LEAD INVESTIGATOR heading up the search for the remaining members of ‘The Disappeared’, Geoff Knupfer, has said there’s no evidence any grave was dug at a site in Co Louth, following claims about the area made by a former British army soldier. 

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, which was set up as part of the peace process to locate the bodies of 16 people who went missing and were presumed to have been killed during The Troubles, carried out an examination of the site at Ravensdale after the claims that British army captain Robert Nairac could be buried there. 

Ex-soldier Alan Barry hired trained cadaver dogs to comb the area. As reported in the Irish Times last week, the dogs alerted their handler to the spot in Ravensdale Forest, on the Louth-Armagh border.     

The dogs gave a “very, very, strong indication” of human remains, their handler told the paper. 

In a statement this afternoon the ICLVR said the site is not “and never has been” a gravesite.

Knupfer led the examination of the site, which was carried out yesterday, according to the ICLVR, by “an experienced archaeologist who has worked on previous searches for the Disappeared along with an assistant archaeologist”. 

Knupfer said in the statement:

“We were looking at quite a defined area at which the cadaver dogs had apparently given strong indications.

“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.

gn Geoff Knupfer, ICLVR lead investigator. Source: Brian Lawless

Nairac was working undercover for the British Army when he was abducted from the Three Steps bar in Drumintee in south Armagh in 1977.

Knupfer, a former Manchester police officer who was tasked with taking over the search for the remains of Troubles victims in 2005, added in today’s statement: 

“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.

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

He said the the ICLVR worked from credible information and drew 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”.

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

He said the Commission was currently searching for Columba McVeigh in Bragan Bog in Co Monaghan “and we hope and pray that that search will also be successful”.

Anyone with information relating to the whereabouts of the remains of Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh or Robert Nairac can contact:

  • CrimeStoppers (UK) on 0800 555 111
  • Fill in the untraceable anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org 
  • Contact the ICLVR in complete confidence on 00800 555 85500
  • Write to the ICLVR, PO Box 10827, Dublin 2
  • Or via the website www.iclvr.ie.

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About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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