The family of a teenager murdered and secretly buried by the IRA have spoken of their hope as a new search for his remains begins.
Columba McVeigh, 19, from Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, was last seen in November 1975.
Excavators will return to a site at Bragan Bog, near Emyvale in Co Monaghan, later on Monday to start a new search effort, the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) has announced.
To date, five searches, the most recent ending in September 2019, have been carried out in the area since 1999 without finding Mr McVeigh’s remains.
Mr McVeigh’s brother, Oliver, said his family are hoping they may finally be able to find him and give him a Christian burial alongside their mother.
“It’s a bit like deja vu except for the final ending that we want,” he told the BBC.
“We’re hopeful that this time we can find Columba’s body and give him a Christian burial in a Christian grave like everybody else, but we just have to wait and see.
“We’ve had five false dawns before so we just have to leave it up to the people that are doing the work, and hopefully come up with a result.”
He urged anyone with any information that may help to find his brother to come forward.
“Any piece of information could be the one that they need to get this thing over the line,” he said.
“I’m always hopeful and this time for some reason gave me some added hope. I know it’s (the search) close to where it was before, but this time gives me a wee bit of added hope.
“But I’ve had this before five times with five disappointments but I’m not going to go away. I’m like a dog with a bone. I’m going to keep fighting and keep scrapping and keep at these people till I find my brother’s body.
“It’s not for me, it’s more for my mother who always wanted this to happen and made me promise when she knew she wasn’t going to live, to get this to happen. She always said she would go to her grave happy if Columba was in the grave with her and her husband.”
Columba McVeigh is one of the “disappeared” victims of the Troubles whose bodies have still to be found.
Geoff Knupfer, the ICLVR’s lead forensic investigator, said: “I’ll repeat what I said when we commenced the last search four years ago: we remain convinced that Columba was buried in Bragan Bog.
“The fact that we have not found his remains after a number of searches is deeply disappointing and frustrating, especially for the McVeigh family.
“But in this work that is not in itself unusual.
“Back in 2014 we found Brendan Megraw’s remains 15 years after the first search on Oristown Bog, Co Meath.
“We constantly review information and refine it.
“While we never discuss the information we are working from, suffice it to say we would not be searching unless we believed that there was a credible reason for doing so.”
Jon Hill, senior investigator with the ICLVR, will take operational control of the search.
He said: “We are looking at an area of around two acres in total which we’ll work on in two phases.
“I can’t put a timeframe on the search but obviously we would hope to see success in phase one which starts today.
“In terms of how the search will progress, much will depend on the weather and the state of the bog as we move through the autumn.
“There is an additional challenge in that part of the area is forested but we’ll deal with that if we have to further down the line.
“We are working with a highly experienced team of contractors and archaeologists and we will do our utmost to bring this search to a successful conclusion for the McVeigh family.
“We all know how much it would mean to them.”
Mr Knupfer reiterated his appeal for information in four outstanding Disappeared cases – Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh, Robert Nairac and Seamus Maguire.
“The role of the ICLVR is purely humanitarian and our only desire is to bring the remains of their loved ones home to their families so that they can be given a Christian burial.
“But we need help to do that.
“The ICLVR is entirely information-driven.
“We do not carry out speculative searches.”
The ICLVR can be contacted by telephone on 00800 5558 5500, international +353 1 602 8655 or by email at Secretary@iclvr.ie