High-tech could help in search for remains

A committee is to write to the Geological Survey of Ireland to establish whether a lidar plane could be used to locate the remaining Disappeared victims.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 7:50 am
Columba McVeigh

The cross-party agreement was made at the joint committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Lidar, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, uses a laser-scanning technology to provide detailed three-dimensional information about the ground.

The committee said it wants to know whether the technology can be used to locate human remains, particularly in a bog.

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It comes as members of the the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) urged people with any information to come forward.

Sixteen people were disappeared by republican paramilitaries during the Troubles.

Aided by the commission set up to investigate their whereabouts, 13 have been found over the last two decades.

Columba McVeigh, former monk Joe Lynskey and British Army captain Robert Nairac have never been found despite extensive inquiries and searches.

Tim Dalton, commissioner for the ICLVR, said there is “great sadness” among the families whose loved ones are still missing.

“An outcome that enables families to remember their loved ones with dignity is important,” Mr Dalton told the committee.

“An outcome that doesn’t enable to do this, to have a burial, to close a very sad chapter, there is pain and remains painful.

“I have seen it in the faces of people who, after many years, have managed to find the remains of a loved one, it bring enormous relief and happiness. In the three outstanding cases there is still great sadness.”

Mr McVeigh, from Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, was abducted and murdered in 1975.

Multiple searches of Bragan Bog in Co Monaghan by the ICLVR have ended in failure.

Geoff Knupfer, lead forensic scientist and investigator, said: “Since the establishment of the commission in 1999 some 21 acres or 8.5 hectares of Bragan Bog have now been searched.

“I should add that we are entirely satisfied that Columba was murdered and buried at Bragan and that we haven’t been intentionally misled.

“Unfortunately his current whereabouts remain something of a mystery.

“Inquiries and research into the cases of Joe Lynskey and Robert Nairac continue. At this point in time, however, we have no fresh substantive information on either case sufficient to warrant a physical search.”

He added: “Unfortunately the bog is an enormous area stretching to the border. Some of it has been forested over the years. We really couldn’t search the entire bog as it would be impossible.

“Several sources have directly or indirectly pointed to a specific area in the bog and it is that area we have searched.

“His remains are not where we were told it was. That open up other avenues – is it the wrong place or could his body have been moved in some way.

“If the body moved by 100 metres, it may as well by 100 miles. If it’s not an area we have been pointed to, we will never find him.”