‘The day they took my brother they took my mother too’

The mother of a teenager murdered and buried by the IRA was left mentally tortured as she tried to convince herself he had run away to marry, an inquest has heard.

Philomena Smyth and Philomena McKee, respectively the aunt and the sister of one of the Disappeared, at the Coroners Court, Dublin. Picture: PA

Belfast student Kevin McKee, 17, was abducted in the city in October 1972. He was never seen alive by his family again.

His remains were found in bogland at Coughalstown, Wilkinstown, Co Meath, on June 25, 2015, along with another of the Disappeared victims of the Troubles — 25-year-old Seamus Wright.

Separate inquests for the pair were convened in Dublin Coroner’s Court.

In the first hearing before coroner Myra Cullinane, a six-person jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of Mr McKee.

The court heard the boy from west Belfast was arrested by police in early 1972. He then went missing for months, apparently having travelled to England, amid rumours the IRA were looking for him on suspicion that he had become a British informer. He returned to Belfast late in the summer of 1972 but vanished again a short time later.

Kevin’s sister, Philomena, told the court her mother Mary died in 2011 having never found her beloved son.

“As a child, I used to go out with my mother to look for him,” said Ms McKee. “She used to sit waiting for him to come home. She suffered from mental health issues since Kevin went missing. Her health deteriorated from then until her death. She used to say: ‘Maybe he went off and married someone and didn’t want us to know.’

“She was mentally tortured. The day they took my brother they took my mother too.”

In 1999, the IRA issued a statement admitting involvement in the disappearance of nine people, two of whom were Mr McKee and Mr Wright. The Provisional movement provided further information that their bodies had been buried in bogland in Co Meath.

A number of searches in later years proved fruitless. The bodies were ultimately found inadvertently in June last year on reclaimed bogland near Coughalstown, Co Meath, during a search for another Disappeared victim, Joseph Lynskey.

The remains were found by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains.

The commission, which was set up by the British and Irish governments in the wake of the Good Friday peace agreement, is tasked with investigating the cases of 16 people killed and secretly buried by republicans during the Troubles.

To date the remains of 12 people have been recovered. Mr Lynskey’s remains, along with three others — Robert Nairac, Seamus Ruddy and Columba McVeigh — are yet to be found.

Relatives of other Disappeared victims attended yesterday’s hearing. Sean Megraw, whose brother Brendan’s body was found in 2014, and Maria Lynskey, niece of Joe Lynskey, watched from the public gallery.

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