The Disappeared: N. Ireland Searches for Closure

The Disappeared: N. Ireland Searches for Closure

In remote bogland in Ireland, investigators search the ground with radar and a cadaver dog for a victim of the IRA murdered and secretly buried in 1972.

They mark out grid areas and put down probes at half-metre intervals for the dog to sniff underground on a grim mission to find the last of the “Disappeared”.

Many of the people taking part in the search are former police officers like Knupfer, a retired detective who worked in the 1980s on the high-profile Moors Murders child killings in England.

Their painstaking work is for a unique agency set up as part of the Northern Ireland peace process that acts on anonymous tip-offs from informants.

Their latest search is for the body of Joe Lynskey, one of the 16 people abducted by paramilitaries during a three-decades long conflict known here simply as “The Troubles”.

Six of the victims have still not been found.

Shortly after a historic peace agreement in 1998, the Independent Commission for the Investigation of Victims Remains (ICLVR) was established.

The search for Lynskey comes two months on from the Commission finding another victim, Brendan Megraw, in nearby bogland after 36 years.

Lynskey and another two “Disappeared” victims are believed to be buried in the same area where Megraw was found in the Republic of Ireland around an hour and a half’s drive across the border from Belfast in Northern Ireland.

– Why only now? –

The legislation that underpins the Commission’s work, enacted in both Britain and Ireland, is unprecedented.

Informants cannot be identified and no evidence discovered can be used in court.

On the bogland search, Mick Swindells of Search Dogs UK plotted out an area, with his body-detection dog, Ronnie, waiting patiently.

The remote and swampy search area is accessible only by windy narrow roads and was even more inaccessible at the time of the killings.

– ‘Just want him home’ –

The peace process has encouraged people to come forward with information that can assist in solving the remaining mysteries from a conflict in which 3,000 people died whose wounds are still raw.

Of the 16 victims under the Commission’s remit, the IRA claimed responsibility for killing 13.

One was killed by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and no attribution has been given to two other victims.

Maria Lynskey, Joe’s niece, said her family only found out four years ago that he was one of the Disappeared as they were given false information that he had emigrated to the United States.

A former Cistercian monk and IRA volunteer, he was killed by his fellow militants after a summary trial for breaking the group’s rules.

Only one of the Disappeared was murdered outside the island of Ireland ?- Seamus Ruddy, 32, who was executed by the Irish National Liberation Army in Paris in 1985 while working as an English teacher.

There have been two unsuccessful searches for Seamus in a forest near Rouen, the last in 2008.