Encouraging fresh leads in search for Nairac

PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/2/99: Captain Robert Nairac in Belfast before he was abducted by the IRA in South Armagh.
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/2/99: Captain Robert Nairac in Belfast before he was abducted by the IRA in South Armagh.

There has been a fresh burst of “encouraging” information in the search for the body of the Captain Robert Nairac, according to the head of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR).

To mark the 40th anniversary of his murder, RTE Prime Time ran a documentary on May 2 carrying strong evidence challenging claims he was a murderer. It also carried calls for the return of his body.

ICLVR Chief Investigator Geoff Knupfer told the News Letter that the programme has given his work a real boost.

“We have had positive responses,” he said, which he described to the News Letter as “encouraging”. He added: “We have had positive responses but we are not prepared to say how many.”

Captain Nairac’s former undercover army colleague, Rev William Burke, told RTE’s Prime Time that the soldier’s family still want him to have a proper Catholic burial.

His parents died some years ago but his two elderly sisters would dearly love to bury his remains.

Rev Burke pleaded: “Please may we have him back, may we have his remains for a Catholic funeral Mass. For his family and his friends.” Rev Burke, who was also an undercover soldier in west Belfast in the 1970s, said he left the army and became a priest partly because of Nairac’s murder.

Mr Knupfer told RTE that claims about Nairac’s involvement in numerous murders were “wild allegations” and had stopped people from helping find his body.

Leo Green, a brother of senior IRA member John Francis Green who was shot dead by the UVF in Co Monaghan in 1975, believes that Nairac was a handler for men who carried out the killing and was probably involved. But he too called for the body to be returned.

“The Nairac family entitlement to truth and Robert Nairac’s entitlement to a proper burial, his siblings’ entitlement to give him that proper burial, it’s up there with all the questions that IRA members’ families have,” he told RTE.

READ MORE: Captain Robert Nairac: ‘the perfect soldier’

READ MORE: Nairac’s remains did not go into mincer, says investigator

It has been reported that Nairac had a photograph of Green taken shortly after the murder, which led to some people believing he had been at the murder scene.

However the ICLVR found Garda gave the photograph to another British soldier, who then gave it to Nairac.

Rev Burke also challenged claims that Nairac had been involved in the 1974 Dublin-Monaghan bombings, saying he had actually been on a course in England at the time and had not joined their undercover unit until three days after the attack.

Nairac has been linked to the murder of three members of the Miami Showband in 1975, but RTE displayed a letter from his regiment showing he was on duty in London at the time and then went fishing with colleague in Scotland.

The officer had been linked to the murder of IRA member Peter Cleary in April 1976, however Rev Burke told RTE that Nairac was in Warminster at the time on a Junior Command course.

Prime Time also displayed a recent letter from Major General Tony Jeapes, head of SAS in Northern Ireland in 1977, which confirmed that although the regiment did kill Peter Cleary, Captain Nairac “was never in the SAS”.

The broadcaster showed archive footage of Nairac’s father, Maurice, also denying his son had been in the SAS. “No, No, from what I understand he liaised between the army and RUC,” he said.

Out of all the disappeared, Captain Nairac has been the most difficult case, Mr Knupfer says. The most common response is: ”He was a villain and got what he deserved”.

“But this is not about Robert Nairac, this is about his family,” he added. “The family didn’t do anything wrong... whether we believe the stories or not.

“It doesn’t make any difference to the fact that his family are still distraught and would like his remains back.”

Conspiracy theorists will dismiss evidence clearing Nairac, he accepts. “But at the end of the day he was a very junior officer.” Why would army sources wait 40 years to deploy such alibis, he asks.

READ MORE: Captain Robert Nairac: ‘the perfect soldier’

READ MORE: Nairac’s remains did not go into mincer, says investigator