Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Search for Nairac remains proves fruitless

A search of an area in Ravensdale forest for the remains of British Army captain Robert Nairac has proven fruitless, the examination determining the site “was never a gravesite”.

Cadavar dogs hired by Alan Barry, a former soldier and now documentary maker, had indicated human remains may have been buried at the spot.  This prompted a search by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) which was carried out on Tuesday last.  The examination was led by ICLVR’s lead forensic scientist and investigator Geoff Knupfer and was carried out by an experienced archaeologist who has worked on previous searches for the Disappeared along with an assistant archaeologist.

Announcing that the search had proved fruitless, Mr Knupfer said afterwards: “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.”

Robert Nairac was abducted by the IRA from The Three Steps pub in Dromintee on May 15, 1977 and later shot and secretly buried.  Mr Knupfer said that the search team had acted in good faith in this search for his remains.

“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,” Mr Knupfer said. 

 “We have to make careful judgments not least in terms of managing expectations.  Over the nearly 15 years that I have been leading the ICLVR’s investigations we have never told families that we know exactly the spot where their loved one is buried for the very good reason that we don’t.”

The forensic scientist said that there were no guarantees of results from any searches.

“We work from credible information and draw 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.  We are currently searching for Columba McVeigh in Bragan Bog, Co Monaghan and we hope and pray that that search will also be successful.  But there are no guarantees where bodies have been secretly buried over 40 years ago.  To suggest otherwise would be grossly irresponsible.”