‘No indication’ Robert Nairac is buried in Co Louth forest

‘The subsurface was pristine. It was never a gravesite,’ says leading site investigator

There is no indication a wooded area in Co Louth was used as a burial site for British army captain Robert Nairac or anyone else, the organisation responsible for locating "the Disappeared" has said.

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) examined the area following a tip-off last week from former British soldier Alan Barry that cadaver dogs had identified possible human remains buried at a specific location in Ravensdale Forest.

Mr Barry, a documentary maker and campaigner, said he believed Capt Nairac was buried on the site based on his own research and the opinion of psychic who had visited the area.

Capt Nairac, an army intelligence officer, is one of the three remaining “Disappeared”, the collective term for the 16 people who were abducted, murdered and buried in secret by paramilitaries during the troubles.


He was abducted from a pub in Dromintee, Co Armagh and shot dead by the Provisional IRA on May 15th, 1977.

On Tuesday experts from the ICLVR) which is responsible for locating the remaining disappeared, visited the site in Co Louth.

The location was examined by ICLVR lead investigator and forensic scientist Geoff Knupfer, along with two archaeologists.

Mr Knupfer said their findings showed conclusively the site was never used to bury human remains.

“We were looking at quite a defined area at which the cadaver dogs had apparently given strong indications. We carried out a careful and painstaking archaeological examination.

“If the subsurface had been disturbed by a spade or any other device or implement cutting into it to bury remains we would have seen clear evidence of that.”

Credible information

Mr Knupfer said there was no evidence of the soil being disturbed. “The subsurface was pristine. It was never a gravesite”.

He said one of the commission’s most important tasks is managing expectations and communicating sensitively “with the families of those who are still waiting for the remains of their loved ones to be returned for Christian burial.

“Over the nearly 15 years that I have been leading the ICLVR’s investigations we have never told families that we know exactly the spot where their loved one is buried for the very good reason that we don’t.

“We work from credible information and draw on years of experience with some of the best forensic archaeologists in Ireland and the UK to narrow down a site and all we can ever say with confidence is that if the remains are there we will find them.”

The ICLVR is currently searching in Bragan Bog, Co Monaghan for the remains of another of the disappeared, Columba McVeigh who was murdered by the IRA in 1975.

Mr Knupfer said they “hope and pray” Mr McVeigh’s remains will be found. “But there are no guarantees where bodies have been secretly buried over 40 years ago.

To suggest otherwise would be grossly irresponsible”.

Anyone with information relating to the whereabouts of the remains of Capt Nairac, Mr McVeigh or Joe Lynskey, who was murdered by the IRA in 1972, is asked to contact the Commission on 01 602 8655 or use the anonymous online form at crimestoppers-uk.org.


Earlier this year, Mr Barry hired a psychic to help find Capt Nairac’s remains. He said this psychic brought him to the exact spot where the cadaver dogs later indicated human remains were buried.

He told the commission of the psychic’s assertion several weeks ago but it declined to investigate. The commission has an unofficial but strict policy of not following up on tip-offs which come from psychics, mediums or similar sources.

A source stressed the only reason it followed up the matter was because of the results of the cadaver dog search. From the start the commission cautioned against premature speculation Capt Nairac’s remains would be found at the location.

Capt Nairac has long been accused of working with loyalist paramilitaries in several atrocities during the Troubles including the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, the Kingsmill massacre and the Miami Showband massacre

In a documentary on Capt Nairac made by Mr Barry and released earlier this year, Mr Knupfer said records show Capt Nairac was in other locations during each of the atrocities.

He also stated that the commission was satisfied that rumours suggesting Capt Nairac’s body was put through a meat processor were “entirely without foundation”.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times