Capt Robert Nairac: Site to be examined for remains of IRA abductee

Captain Robert Nairac was abducted by the IRA in south Armagh. His remains have never been found.
Captain Robert Nairac was abducted by the IRA in south Armagh. His remains have never been found.
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There are fresh hopes that a new search could begin for Capt Robert Nairac in Co Louth after a dowser and cadaver dogs were used to identify a potential site for his remains.

The English Army officer was abducted by the IRA during an undercover operation in a south Armagh pub in 1977.

A cadaver dog gives an excited response at the site where an official dig will take place shortly for the remains of Capt Robert Nairac.

A cadaver dog gives an excited response at the site where an official dig will take place shortly for the remains of Capt Robert Nairac.

It is believed he was beaten and then shot by the IRA before being buried in an unknown grave.

Geoff Knupfer, lead investigator with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR), confirmed that an examination of the site will be carried out before a decision on a full search will be made.

He said a female dowser and several ex-soldiers recently went to the Three Steps Pub in Dromintee where Capt Nairac was abducted.

Mr Knupfer added: “From there they went to the location where Robert was reportedly murdered and then she pointed to what she believed was the spot where she believed he is buried.”

We will either find Robert or we will eliminate the site.

Geoff Knupfer

Former Grenadier Guard Alan Barry, who is from the same regiment as Nairac, arranged the private search and wanted the commission to do an excavation at that point. But Mr Knupfer said it “does not respond to clairvoyant or psychic findings – in line with standard UK police policy”.

However, Mr Barry then hired a dog handler who said his dogs had “positive hits at the exact same spot”.

“So based on the information about the dogs alone, we will carry out an examination of the site in the next few days. We will either find Robert or we will eliminate the site.”

Mr Knupfer confirmed that excavation has begun separately on nearby land in recent days “but this is nothing to do with Robert Nairac and is simply work to put in a local boundary”.

Steven Travers, survivor of the Miami Showband attack, left, and Alan Black, survivor of the Kingsmills Massacre. Although claims have been made that Robert Nairac was involved in both attacks, both men said the leader in both cases did not match Robert Nairac's appearance.

Steven Travers, survivor of the Miami Showband attack, left, and Alan Black, survivor of the Kingsmills Massacre. Although claims have been made that Robert Nairac was involved in both attacks, both men said the leader in both cases did not match Robert Nairac's appearance.

Mr Barry told the News Letter: “The Gardai have been very supportive. They have said they are going to keep a close eye on the area until the excavation can begin.”

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is aware of the developments and is hopeful of a positive outcome.

“The site has been visited by cadaver dogs used by the Garda to search for human remains and have given a positive identification that human remains may be buried there,” he said.

Mystique, rumour and allegation have grown surrounding Robert Nairac in the years since he went missing.

Some have claimed that he improbably led the Kingsmills massacre by the IRA and the Miami Showband murders by the UVF, as a man with an English accent barked orders during both attacks.

However, survivors of both atrocities previously told the News Letter that neither of the English-accented men they saw looked like Nairac.

The IRA killed 10 Protestant workmen at Kingsmills in south Armagh in 1976. Sole survivor Alan Black said that the man giving orders had an English accent.

“Over the years I have felt that the authorities were trying to take us down that road to Nairac,” Mr Black told the News Letter in 2017.

“Good enough I have not said that before; that the authorities were trying to blame all on Nairac and then it would come to a dead end and that would be it.”

He discounts Nairac’s involvement because the man barking orders was “squat and very well built” but in photographs Nairac was “more of an athlete”.

Steve Travers of the Miami Showband survived the loyalist attack on the band which saw three of his colleagues killed in 1975.

He noted that a man he believes to be an Army officer with a clear English accent gave orders to the gunmen. However, he said he could never be certain whether or not it was Capt Nairac.

“My distinct impression was that the officer I saw and heard had fair hair,” he said, in contrast to Nairac’s distinctly dark hair.

Defenders of Nairac have also asked how likely the tighly-knit South Armagh IRA members would be to let an English army officer lead them on a major operation, such as the Kingsmills Massacre.

The Kingsmills Massacre inquest has heard that Nairac was not even in the countryat the time of the shootings.

The Historical Enquiries Team report on the massacre reported that the man with an English accent may have been an IRA man from just across the border who had a career in the British armed forces in England.