Family await news in Disappeared find

The family of a man believed to have been murdered by the IRA almost 30 years ago face a month-long wait for confirmation his remains have been found.

Forensic investigators are continuing to dig at isolated bogland in Co Monaghan where partial human remains thought to be that of Charlie Armstrong were uncovered in a shallow grave.

The 57-year-old father-of-five, who vanished on his way to Mass from his home in Crossmaglen, south Armagh in 1981, was one of the so-called 'Disappeared', who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republicans during the Troubles.

It is understood a map passed to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) a year ago was key to yesterday's discovery near Inniskeen, just miles from Mr Armstrong's home across the border in the North.

ICLVR commissioner Frank Murray said positively identifying the remains could take up to four weeks.

"We cannot give an authoritative decision on whose remains were discovered but we would be cautiously optimistic and pleased that we have discovered the remains of Charlie Armstrong as we have no indication of anyone else being buried in the area," he said.

The remains are to be taken to the State Pathologist's office in Dublin.

Samples will be taken which will be sent to a laboratory in England where a special DNA database contains the genetic codes of all the families of the Disappeared.

Last July, a map containing fresh information and indicating a previously unsearched area in Co Monaghan was sent anonymously to investigators.

Mr Murray signalled the terrain of the remote bogland and bad weather had hampered the progress of the searches.

"It's a very difficult site," he said.

"(It's) a strange mixture of a quarry and a bog, and water-logged most of the time.

"Obviously our searches are intelligence-led, information-led, but it did require an extensive amount of excavation of a difficult bit comprising part bog and part quarry."

The latest phase of the dig began at the end of June this year.

Mr Murray added: "They (remains) were a few feet in the ground I understand."

The ground was very water-logged and the operation involved digging a channel through the rock to drain out the water.

Mr Murray said the bad weather of recent years had not helped the hunt.

The IRA admitted in 1999 that it murdered and buried nine of the Disappeared in secret locations.

The same year the ICLVR, which reports to the Northern Ireland Office in Belfast and the Department of Justice in Dublin, was set up by the British and Irish governments.

In 2007, they brought in Geoff Knupfer, the investigative scientist who helped find the bodies of the victims of Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, to spearhead a new scientific approach to the searches.

This included bringing in an archaeological "time-team", made up of geophysicists who used ground radar, scanners, probes and cadaver dogs that detect human remains.

The bodies of five Disappeared have been found: Eamon Molloy, Brian McKinney, John McClory, Jean McConville and Danny McElhone.

Others who vanished during the Troubles include Gerry Evans, Robert Nairac and Seamus Ruddy, who disappeared in France and whose murder was admitted by the INLA.

Mr Murray said searches were ongoing in Monaghan, Meath and Louth for other victims.

"We have ongoing physical activity at three or four other sites at the minute," he said.

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