Family’s torment ends as Charlie is laid to rest

September 21, 2010

By Brónagh Murphy

The family of Crossmaglen man, Charlie Armstrong, gathered at his funeral on Saturday to say a final farewell to a much loved husband and father and to finally give him the Christian burial they have always hoped for.

Charlie’s wife Kathleen, sons Jim, Terry and Charles and daughters Kathleen and Anna led mourners into St. Patrick’s Church where Bishop Gerard Clifford told those gathered that it was “a day to welcome home one who was loved and respected in this community.”

In August 1981 Charlie Armstrong left his home to go to Mass in St. Patrick’s Church in Crossmaglen.  On Saturday, 29 years later, he finally arrived.

Bishop Clifford told mourners: “Today is a day of relief, a day to close a chapter in the lives of the Armstrong family. “It would be an exaggeration to say that it is a day of joy.   The loss of one’s own is as deeply felt today as it was 29 years ago.

“It is still a day of mourning for one’s loved one. It is a day to end the torment, the fear, the frustration and the anger,” he said.

The remains of Charlie Armstrong were recovered from an area of bogland at Colgagh, Co. Monaghan on July 29th.  Last week the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains confirmed the remains were those of Mr Armstrong after DNA testing was carried out.

Bishop Clifford said it would give hope to other families still waiting for news about their loved ones.

“I think of the nine families still searching for their loved one. The search goes on.  The searches are meticulous and are persistent but they will only be completed when the bodies of those still missing are found. That can only be done with the help of somebody or some people who may have an inkling or hint that might give a lead to those doing the search.

He appealed to anyone who may have information which would help find those still missing to come forward.

“Twenty-nine years ago Charlie Armstrong went missing. It was only with the help of those who gave some clue of what they remembered that we gather here today. Time is moving on,” he said.

“There may be people who have some indication of where a body is placed.  To anybody who might have a shred of information, I appeal to you to share that with those who will explore it to the full.”

Final chapter in tragic tale

by Brónagh Murphy

When the remains of Charlie Armstrong were laid to rest in St. Patrick’s Churchyard, Crossmaglen on Saturday, it marked the final chapter in a tragic tale that has spanned three decades.

When Charlie left his home on August 16th 1981, his family could never have imagined that it would be almost thirty years before he would return.

In those ensuing years, they fought a tireless campaign to find him.  In the early years, rumour and innuendo surrounded his disappearance but his family resolutely ignored the disparaging remarks, instead focusing their dignified campaign on finding him.

On the day he went missing, Charlie left his home to travel four miles and pick up an elderly neighbour to take her to Mass.  He never arrived.  The following day his car was found outside the Adelphi Cinema in Dundalk.  There was nothing to suggest a struggle. The doors were unlocked but there were no keys in the vehicle.  It gave no clues to what had happened to him

The IRA has never claimed responsibility for the disappearance of Mr Armstrong, but the father-of-five was always believed to be a victim of a republican murder.  Despite this, his family never sought retribution and only appealed for his body to be returned to them so that they could give him a Christian burial.


The setting up of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR) in 1999 proved instrumental in the search for the Disappeared

Since its establishment, members of the public have come forward with information suggesting the location of some of those missing.  To encourage people to come forward, special legislation was passed to offer limited immunity from prosecution.

In 2007, the Commission brought in Geoff Knupfer, the investigative scientist who

helped find the bodies of the victims of Moors Murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, to spearhead a new scientific approach to the searches.

This included bringing in an archaeological ‘time-team’, made up of geophysicists who used ground radar, scanners, probes and cadaver dogs which detect human remains.

After several unsuccessful searches, in July last year new information on Charlie Armstrong’s disappearance, passed to the Commission, was described as a ‘major breakthrough’ and gave fresh hope to his family.

This information centred on a map depicting an area of bogland close to the border with south Armagh in Colgagh, near Inniskeen in Co Monaghan.

The fresh map was sent anonymously and indicated a previously unsearched area.  Digs were carried out and a year later, on July 29th 2010, human remains were found.

Following intensive DNA testing, the remains were positively identified as those of Charlie Armstrong and last Thursday were returned to his family for burial.


For his family, it is the end of the nightmare that has engulfed them for 29 years and provides closure to their prolonged and painful search.

Hundreds of mourners packed into St. Patrick’s Church to join the Armstrong family in their final farewell to their much loved husband, father and grandfather.  May he now rest in peace.

Moving tributes paid at Charlie’s final farewell

Throughout the Mass, tributes were paid to those involved in the search and recovery of Charlie Armstrong, and to those whose help and support enabled his family to never give up hope that one day he would be found.

At the Offertory, family members of the Disappeared brought a lighted candle to the altar, symbolizing each of their loved ones who had been disappeared.  The candles were placed beside the Wreath of the Disappeared, bearing nine white lilies to mark those still missing.


In a moving eulogy, Charlie’s daughter Anna McShane, thanked those who were instrumental in bringing the family to this day, singling out the ‘person or persons’ who provided the vital information that led to the recovery of her father’s body.

On behalf of the family, she expressed deepest gratitude to  Sandra Peake and the WAVE Trauma Group for their practical and emotional support over the last number of years and to the Commissioners from ICLVR for their dedication and commitment that took their search to its successful conclusion.

She also paid tribute to the courage and dignity displayed by her mother throughout the last three decades.

“She was born with the gift of seeing goodness in everyone and everything.  In her daily prayers she always prayed for those who took her husband from her,” Anna said.

“All we ever wanted was to give our father a Christian burial.  Goodbye Daddy, until we meet again.”

To the strains of the moving and poignant ballad ‘You’ll never disappear’ – written especially for the Disappeared – the remains of Charlie Armstrong were carried from the church to the adjoining graveyard where he was laid to rest in the family plot.