'Weeks' until INLA victim's remains are home
It will be weeks before the body of Seamus Ruddy, an INLA murder victim, will return to Ireland, the lead investigator overseeing the probe said.
A body, believed to be that of Mr Ruddy, was exhumed from a French forest after it was discovered on Saturday morning.
French authorities were due to move the clothed, skeletal remains to a local mortuary yesterday afternoon where a pathologist will carry out a post-mortem.
Irish workers who found the body will then begin the process of returning the forested site to its original condition.
In 1985, Mr Ruddy, originally from Newry, which straddles counties Armagh and Down, was abducted in Paris, killed by the INLA and then secretly buried.
Geoff Knupfer, the chief investigator with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR), said that his team was waiting for the post-mortem to be completed before extracting a DNA sample from the remains.
He said that the sample will likely match DNA samples obtained from all of Mr Ruddy's family members.
"It could take a matter of weeks, it will certainly be more than days, that's for sure," Mr Knupfer said yesterday.
He said French authorities had to be sure it was Mr Ruddy's body, and not that of any other murder victim, before they can allow it to return to Ireland.
Mr Knupfer was preparing to fly from England to France yesterday to supervise the operation.
He said that following a smaller-scale dig in 2008 his team had a big breakthrough following further discussions with the INLA.
"In the past we dug in three pin-point areas and that has drawn a blank. We got further information and took a decision to do a full-blown search and it was in the process of that we found the remains," he told 'The Times' yesterday.
Workers from a Monaghan-based civil engineering firm found the body on Saturday morning.
Digging machinery brought to the site from Monaghan will return to Ireland by ferry.
Mr Knupfer said he could not comment on whether he has had ongoing talks with the Irish Republican Society Party, the INLA's political wing, before the body was found.
"I will say that there has never been a hint of people trying to deceive. I think there is a genuine will in Ireland to resolve these issues," he said.
Anne Morgan, Mr Ruddy's sister, has visited the forest at Pont-de-l'Arche outside Rouen, where the search began early last week.
Yesterday, she attended Mass at the Church of Joan of Arc in Rouen.
She told the BBC she would "be thinking of family" who were back home.
"I'll also be thinking of those who have been here looking after this site at Pont-de-l'Arche, and all of the people who have spent a lot of time helping us to find Seamus," she said.
Ms Morgan had been heading home on Saturday when she heard a body had been found, and extended her stay.
She added: "It was like a bitter sweet moment when you're very happy but also very very sad.
"We just want to take Seamus home and give him a Christian burial with his parents Molly and John.
"We have waited a long time and prayed for the day that he could be given a Christian burial in Newry."
With the likely discovery of Mr Ruddy's remains, the ICLVR has just three bodies remaining on its list of the Disappeared, all of them killed by the IRA.