Wednesday 24 January 2018

A grim discovery after 29 years of pain

Body believed to be IRA victim who vanished going to Mass

Tom Brady and  Patsy McArdle

Forensic tests are to be carried out on the remains found in a bog in Co Monaghan and then taken to Dublin yesterday for examination.

It is expected that the tests will conclude that the remains are those of Charlie Armstrong, the south Armagh man who disappeared while on his way to Mass in 1981.

Mr Armstrong's wife Kathleen said yesterday she hoped this latest development, in what had been a nightmare for the family, would end three decades of torment.


Mrs Armstrong said the disappearance of her husband and the three-decade wait for answers represented "the worst thing that's ever happened".

"But let's hope this is true, and that the rest of the families get their loved ones as well," she added.

One of the couple's five children, Terry, said: "Hopefully the good will outweigh the bad and we'll get him home and be happy."

The remains were discovered during a fresh search ordered by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains in the bogland near Cullaville, about four miles from the man's home.

The area remained sealed off yesterday to allow further examination of the site by garda technical experts.

Commission officials hope that the relatively good condition of the remains will make it easier to confirm identification.

Mr Armstrong will become the third member of the so-called disappeared, all victims of paramilitaries, to have been buried in that area.

The remains of John McClory (17) and Brian McKinney (23), from west Belfast, were also found in the Colgagh site as a result of excavations undertaken after information was provided to the commission by the Provisional IRA.

The two men had disappeared in May 1978 and their bodies were found after a 30-day search in June 1999. Mr Armstrong (55), a father of five, is also believed to have been a victim of the IRA.

However, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said yesterday he had no evidence to suggest that the IRA had been involved in Mr Armstrong's death.

He said his party had been working with the commission on the cases of the disappeared and he urged anyone with information to contact the relevant groups.

Mr Armstrong left home in Crossmaglen to collect a neighbour on his way to Mass but he never reached the neighbour's house. His unlocked car was found the following day in a car park beside the Adelphi cinema in Dundalk.

The Provisionals denied any involvement but it was thought that the IRA had attempted to hijack his car and when Mr Armstrong resisted he was shot dead.

Searches are continuing on an on-off basis for the bodies of more of the disappeared at locations in counties Monaghan, Louth and Meath.

The Provisionals have also said they were not involved in the disappearance of another Crossmaglen man, Gerry Evans, whose body has still not been recovered despite searches in the general Colgagh area and also at the Black Island near Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.

Fine Gael TD Seymour Crawford said yesterday he had met the Armstrong family over the years and he could understand the great suffering that had been inflicted on the family.

He said he hoped the discovery would bring some relief from the pain they had endured.

Irish Independent

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