Gardai are to resume search for body of man near Blessington today


As darkness fell last night, gardai digging in mountainous terrain at Ballynultagh, outside the village of Lacken in west Wicklow, had not found the body of a man believed to have been murdered by the IRA and buried in the area. The search will resume at 7 a.m. today.

Gardai at the scene said their information was that the man - whom they did not name - had been taken to the area about five miles outside Blessington and killed. He was buried in a shallow grave, probably not more than three feet deep, gardai thought.

The Garda operation resulted from information supplied to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains.

Starting their dig just before noon yesterday, gardai initially estimated that the operation would take only a few hours. They pinpointed a 10ft square area where they had been told the body was buried.

A local undertaker was asked to be on standby and arrangements were made to fly in Prof John Harbison, the State Pathologist, to inspect the scene, before removing the body to the Dublin City Morgue.

By lunchtime, however, gardai from the Carlow/Kildare Division under the supervision of Supt Sean Feeley decided to widen the search area.

Insp Simon O'Connor of the Garda Press Office explained that their information was not first hand, but had come through at least three people.

Yesterday, there did not seem to be any distinguishing features on the landscape, apart from a ridge - half a mile long - where the body is supposed to be located. Gardai noted that it was 20 years since it was buried.

At 3 p.m. it was decided to bring in a mechanical digger to assist in the search, but this did not yield any results. Gardai also used metal detectors, although it is not known if the deceased was carrying anything metal at the time.

Last night, gardai planned to widen the area again tomorrow. "If it is here we should find it," Insp O'Connor said.

The search area is several hundred yards from the scene of a botched attempt to kill a man in 1982, when the IRA held a "court martial" of a Corkman in a deserted farmhouse. The man was told he was to be shot, but he escaped. He was subsequently convicted for a knee-capping incident which had occurred before his attempted murder. He served six years in prison.

Army Rangers train in the area where the search is taking place. The ground was littered with spent rifle bullets yesterday.

The mountainous uplands have a long tradition as an IRA training ground, stretching back to before the War of Independence, according to local people.