Tributes paid to ‘Disappeared’ Archaeologist

September 22, 2014

Tributes have been paid to a forensic archaeologist who led the team that recovered the remains of Crossmaglen man Charlie Armstrong, one of the ‘Disappeared’.

The father of five disappeared on his way to Mass in August 1981 and remained missing for more than thirty years until his body was found in a bog near Castleblayney in July 2010.

John McIlwaine, who died at the age of 49 last Tuesday night, was a leading forensic archaeologist from Portadown who was in charge of the team that recovered Mr Armstrong’s remains as well as those of Danny McIlhone in 2008.

Mr Armstrong’s daughter Anna McShane said she remembered Mr McIlwaine as “an awfully nice man who was so good to our family.”

“He worked tirelessly in the most dreadful conditions to find my father,” she said.

“May he rest in peace.”

Mr McIlwaine had once described his work in the searches for the Disappeared as a”privilege” and said their success had far outstripped predictions at the start of the process.

Geoff Knupfer, the chief forensic scientist and investigator with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR), paid tribute to Mr McIlwaine’s “great knowledge and experience” which he said “made a huge contribution to our work.”

“Searching for the Disappeared in bleak and inhospitable places requires a special kind of dedication and commitment as well as great skill and that is what John had in abundance” said Mr Knupfer.

Seventeen people – 16 men and a woman were murdered and secretly buried by republicans between 1972 and 2003.

The ICLVR was established in 1999 to obtain information that may lead to the location of the remains of the Disappeared. So far the bodies of 10 people have been recovered.