‘Bitterly disappointing’: Latest search for Columba McVeigh ends without success

Columba McVeigh, who was 19 and from Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, was abducted on October 31st, 1975

The latest search for one of the Disappeared, Columba McVeigh, has ended without success.

The UK and Irish commissioners on the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) – which searches for the bodies of the Disappeared – announced on Thursday that the operation had been completed and Mr McVeigh’s remains had not been found.

Its lead investigator, Jon Hill, said it was “bitterly disappointing” and renewed the commission’s long-standing appeal for information.

“We need those who have information to think again to see if there is anything further that they can tell us that will get us to the place we need to be,” Mr Hill said.


“If credible information is forthcoming and the commissioners accept that there are good grounds for us to search again then we will be back. But we can’t make that case until we have more to go on.”

Mr McVeigh, who was 19 and from Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, was abducted on October 31st, 1975.

A series of searches were carried out at Bragan Bog near Emyvale, Co Monaghan, between 1999-2019, and a fresh search began in the bog last year.

Mr McVeigh is one of 17 people known as the Disappeared who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA during the Troubles. Four, including Mr McVeigh, are still missing.

Speaking during a visit to the bog on the 48th anniversary of her brother’s disappearance last month, Dympna Kerr said she prayed “every single day” that Mr McVeigh would be found.

All the family want, she said, “is to bring Columba home, to have the wake, to bring him to the cemetery in Donaghmore and lay him to a final rest beside our Mum and Dad”.

Mr Hill said the latest search, which started more than a year ago on about four acres of “difficult terrain”, had been “particularly frustrating” as “we lost several months due to the severe weather last winter and this summer”.

“The final phase when we reached the tree line was particularly challenging,” he said. “But every day we started in the hope that that would be the day we would find Columba and the disappointment that we haven’t is deeply felt by everyone on the search team, whose hearts go out to the McVeigh family.”

Mr Hill said he remained “convinced that Columba was taken to Bragan Bog nearly 50 years ago and was buried there”.

“Equally I have no doubt that the information we have been working on was given in good faith... But we haven’t found him which can only mean that he’s not where we were told to look.”

Anyone with information on any of the ICLVR’s four outstanding Disappeared cases – Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh, Robert Nairac and Seamus Maguire – can contact the ICLVR in strict confidence by phone 00800-55585500 or +353 1 602 8655, by email to secretary@iclvr.ie or by post to ICLVR PO Box 10827.

CrimeStoppers can be contacted on 0800 555 111 or using an untraceable anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times