Missing man shot dead after struggle with IRA abductors


A BELFAST man who was killed by the IRA in 1981 and whose remains were recovered in the Wicklow Mountains 27 years later, was shot dead following a struggle with a man who was guarding him, an inquest has heard.

The remains of Daniel McIlhone (21), Bernagh Drive, Lisbon Road, Andersonstown, Belfast, were found at Ballynultagh, Blessington, Co Wicklow, in November 2008.

Mr McIlhone was living in a flat at Pearse Tower, Ballymun, Dublin, when he was abducted from the area on about May 12th, 1981.

“The information we have received from sources in the republican movement [is] that he was indeed shot,” Geoffrey Knupfer from the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains told Dublin City Coroner’s Court yesterday.

Mr Knupfer said Mr McIlhone was taken and held in a premises at Blessington and that he was being questioned by the Provisional IRA about “certain matters” when he became involved in a struggle.

Mr McIlhone was shot a number of times at Ballynultagh and died of gunshot wounds, the court heard.

“We have quite an extensive portfolio of information,” said Mr Knupfer, but he said that at no time had the commission been informed who carried out the killing. He was not suspected of being an informer, Mr Knupfer said.

A jury of five men and three women accepted that McIlhone died on or about May 12th, 1981, and returned a verdict of unlawful killing by person or persons unknown under the direction of coroner Dr Brian Farrell.

The inquest heard that the Provisional IRA issued a statement in March 1999 accepting responsibility for the deaths of nine people, known as “the Disappeared”, including that of Mr McIlhone.

A search for Mr McIlhone’s remains in Blessington by gardaí in 1999-2000 proved fruitless.

The commission set up by the Irish and British governments to find “the Disappeared” was passed information that his body was buried around Ballynultagh.

A search of 22 acres of moorland, which began in 2007, led to the recovery of a leather cowboy boot in November 2008.

The boot was subsequently identified by his brother Christopher McIlhone, who had reported his brother missing in the summer of 1981.

“He clearly remembered his brother having the boots on when he last saw him,” Det Insp Joseph Crowe of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation told the inquest.

Mr McIlhone saw his brother approximately a week before he went missing.

Human foot remains were found in the boot and a further search uncovered further human remains.

The remains were analysed at laboratories in Britain and proved a positive match with DNA samples taken from five siblings of Mr McIlhone.

They were 300,000 times more likely to have come from a McIlhone sibling than not, the court heard.

“I’m absolutely satisfied they were the remains of Daniel McIlhone,” Mr Knupfer said.

Mr Knupfer was representing the commission at the inquest yesterday along with John Hill and Frank Murray.

“This is a terrible crime. I’d be speaking for the community when I say we really deplore what happened,” said coroner Dr Brian Farrell. “The family waited a long time for information,” he said.

Mr McIlhone’s parents had died by the time his remains were found.

McIlhone: profile

Danny McIlhone (19) was abducted, questioned and shot dead by the IRA in 1981. His body remained undiscovered in the Ballynultagh area of south Co Wicklow until late last year.

His body was unearthed with the help of specialists brought in by the British-Irish commission established to help locate the remains of IRA victims known collectively as “the Disappeared”. An IRA statement in 1999 did not refer to Mr McIlhone as an informer but it said he was taken for questioning by its members over a case of alleged arms theft.

It was also claimed he died in a struggle with the person or persons holding him. His funeral on December 23rd last year was attended by leading republicans along with his extended family.