The heartbroken mother of a teacher abducted and murdered by republicans in Paris sat by her window every day for 10 years waiting for her son to return, it was revealed today.
Molly Ruddy ended her agonising vigil for missing son Seamus only when the INLA finally admitted killing the 33-year-old Newry man and secretly burying him in May 1985, her daughter said.
The 79-year-old’s health deteriorated rapidly after that shattering blow and she died only months later – though not before she got her boy’s name engraved on the headstone at her husband John’s grave.
Patsy McAteer, who appeared before a Stormont committee to recount the continuing plight of the families of the Disappeared victims of the North's Troubles, said her mother had tried to convince herself that her brother was still alive, hoping he had joined the French Foreign Legion.
“We knew he was dead,” she said after the hearing.
“But my mother couldn’t accept it. It wasn’t until the INLA finally said 10 years later that she realised he was gone. Her health just went downhill after that.
“But before that she sat at that window every day for 10 years, thinking he was going to walk round the corner.”
Another of Seamus Ruddy’s sisters, Anne Morgan, explained how important it was for her mother to get his name on the gravestone before hers.
“She thought if his name was in stone then no-one could rub it out,” she said.
The scheduled appearance of the relatives at the finance committee comes only days after partial remains understood to belong to one of the victims - 19-year-old Danny McIlhone – were discovered by forensic investigators deep in the Wicklow mountains.
Mrs Morgan said the find by the Independent Commission for the Relocation of Victims’ Remains had given the families of the eight remaining Disappeared a much-needed boost.
“It’s good for the family of Danny McIlhone that he has been found and it’s also good for the (other) Disappeared families to know that he has been found and it’s also good for the forensic team that has worked tirelessly for years,” she said.
“It’s such a good boost for us all. All we can do is hope that we can get encouragement from it that someday maybe our own loved ones will be found.”
She again called on anyone with information on the whereabouts of the Disappeared to pass it to the commission.
The body was established by the British and Irish Governments in 1999 to help find people killed by republicans in the 1970s and 1980s whose bodies were buried in secret locations.
Since then four bodies, excluding this week’s discovery in Wicklow, have been recovered.
“If information is coming through and the information is correct the forensic team that are there in place will look after it and will do their best and will find them, but it’s the information that we need to be forwarded,” said Mrs Morgan.
The relatives gave evidence to the committee on proposed legislation to make it easier for families of people missing presumed dead to be granted death certificates.
The Presumption of Death Bill, which is currently passing through legal stages at the Stormont Assembly, is designed to simplify the process of registering such deaths.
Kieran Megraw, whose brother Brendan, 24, was kidnapped and killed by the IRA in 1978, explained why it was important to get a death certificate.
“It’s not the practical benefits as such it’s more the emotional side of it,” he said.
“It gives partial closure, each family will approach it differently but for ourselves, it’s just another step in the process of registering the death rather than just saying he’s disappeared.”