Tributes have been paid to Walter Simons, the late father of the first member of those ‘disappeared’ by the IRA whose body was recovered.
He died peacfully at home in Newcastle Co Down on Sunday.
His son Eugene Simons went missing from Castlewellan on 1 January 1981. He was one of 16 people secretly murdered and buried by republicans during the Troubles.
Geoff Knupfler, lead investigator for the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, said: “Walter was an absolutely delightful man. He was very supportive of our work and of that of the Wave Trauma Centre.”
Eugene’s remains were discovered in a shallow grave by a dog walker near Dundalk in 1984.
Alan McBride from the Wave Trauma Centre, paid tribute.
“I first met Walter Simons when I was working on the Disappeared book a good few years ago,” he said. “Walter was a remarkable man. He was a gentleman who never gave up hope that those still missing will be found.
“I suppose Walter wanted all of the disappeared families to get what he got, a Christian burial for their loved ones. As Walter now takes his place with the saints in glory I suspect his campaigning will not stop. I saw him last night, dressed for his final journey with his Disappeared Badge proudly displayed in his lapel.”
Searches are ingoing for Columba McVeigh while Robert Nairac and Joe Lynskey are also still missing.
The reference work Lost Lives lists Eugene has having been a 26-year-old married father-of-three and an IRA man who was shot by the group as an alleged informer.
Walter previously said his son was last seen in Castlewellan with “supposed friends”. They were “in some way involved in his abduction” because afterwards they left the area for several months. On their return they were questioned by police. Eugene had denied being in the IRA, he said, adding that his son “was never brought up that way”. Walter always upheld the law, he said, and had an open door “for people of all religions”.
Walter’s remains will leave 7 Village Manor, Bryansford, on Wednesday 10 July at 11.30am for requiem mass in St Patrick’s Church, Bryansford at noon.