New bid to find the remains of 'Disappeared' victim Brendan Megraw

Survey will cover more than five acres and will take a week

Forensic archaeologists examine five acres of a bog in Oristown Co Meath, as a fresh search for the body of Brendan Megraw, who was murdered and secretly buried by the IRA, commences. Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

Forensic archaeologists examine five acres of a bog in Oristown Co Meath, as a fresh search for the body of Brendan Megraw, who was murdered and secretly buried by the IRA, commences. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Oristown bog probably hasn’t changed much since Brendan Megraw Disappeared in April 1978. The pinkisk-purple heather is still bringing colour to the remote area and little turf footings are lined up, waiting to be saved. But there was something new at the bog near Kells, Co Meath yesterday.

A red quad bike slowly moved up and down a patch of bog, pulling a ground-penetrating radar on wheels behind it. A laptop was mounted on top to record the findings. The geo-physical survey has been undertaken by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victim’s Remains in a renewed effort to find the remains of Brendan Megraw.

The newly-wed 23-year-old was expecting the birth of his first child when he was abducted from Twinbrook in west Belfast 36 years ago. There have been three searches for his remains before, the most recent of which happened in 2010 but this survey is using more sophisticated equipment that can cover a larger area in a shorter time period.

This latest exercise is being led by Jon Hill, senior investigator with the commission. He said the ground penetrating radar equipment would show if the ground had been disturbed or if there were anomalies in an area. “That’s what it’s designed for, to show something out of the ordinary beneath the surface.”

Radar

Local man Patrick Meehan leaned on his walking stick as he watched the radar moving over the bog. “Hopefully they’ll find something this time,” he said. “I remember the last search. It went on for weeks but they found nothing.”

The latest bid to find the body came after the commission received new information. Mr Hill said it wasn’t unusual for information to come along, sometimes years after a search has ended. “These cases are always open until they are found and we always consider any information that comes along. But this is fairly recent information and it’s quite specific in relation to Brendan Megraw and to this location.”

Mr Megraw’s relatives did not visit the scene yesterday, but before the search began his brother Seán said the news of a new search “came as a bit of a shock” to the family. “We are hopeful that this will lead to the end of it and we will get Brendan back,” he said. “We are apprehensive because it could be another fruitless search. It is 15 years since we were told he was buried at the bog and since then it has been a hunt to find where he is located.”

Brendan Megraw was one of 17 people who were “Disappeared” by the IRA during the Troubles. They were abducted, murdered and secretly buried between 1972 and 2003. The remains of 10 have now been recovered. At least two other bodies are thought to be buried in Meath – Kevin McKee and Séamus Wright were also taken from west Belfast and are thought to be buried in Wilkinstown, not far from Oristown bog.

Asked if the commission will eventually recover the remains of all the Disappeared, Mr Hill said it was a very hard task. “I’d like to think that we will but we do have to face facts here. Areas have changed. Ground has changed. As time moves on people who may have had material information have died. So we have to be realistic . . . but we still hold out a great deal of hope.”

l The commission’s confidential freephone line is 00800 55585 500.