Timeline: The Disappeared

Search for body of Columba McVeigh A number of searches for the remains of Columba McVeigh have not found anything

The Disappeared are those who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republicans during Northern Ireland's Troubles.

Despite extensive and painstaking searches, the bodies have never been found of seven out of 16 people listed by the commission set up to locate victims' remains.

Here is a timeline charting more than 40 years of developments in one of the darkest episodes of Northern Ireland's Troubles.

September 1972

Joe Lynskey was a former Cistercian monk from the Beechmount area of west Belfast, who later joined the IRA. Mr Lynskey's name was added to the list of the Disappeared in 2010 when republicans claimed he was "executed and buried" by the IRA. His body has not been found.

October 1972
Joe Lynskey Joe Lynskey went missing in 1972 - his body has never been found

Kevin McKee, 17, was the youngest member of the Disappeared. He was abducted alongside fellow IRA member Seamus Wright, 25. The pair are interrogated and murdered by his former colleagues who accuse them of being British army agents and members of its undercover Military Reaction Force. Despite extensive searches in Coghalstown, near Navan in County Meath, their bodies have never been found.

December 1972

Jean McConville, a widow and mother-of-10, is taken by the IRA from her home in the Divis Flats in west Belfast. The case initially gains extensive media attention in the run-up to Christmas as her children plead for information about their mother. However, republicans put out the message that she is merely lying low, and the story gradually fades. Her body was found at a beach in County Louth in 2003.

August 1973

Peter Wilson, 21, vanishes from his Falls Road home in west Belfast. Described as a vulnerable person with learning difficulties, for four days before he disappeared he lived with an Army unit at their headquarters near his home. At the time the Army was accused of using a vulnerable person to gather information on the IRA, but the Army said they wanted him to experience military life. Reports suggest he may have been abducted and murdered by the IRA. His name was added to the list of the Disappeared in 2009 after new information became available. His remains were found in November 2010.

May 1975

Eamon Molloy, 22, is kidnapped and shot dead by the IRA over claims he is a police informer. His body was discovered in a cemetery near Dundalk, County Louth, in 1999.

November 1975
Columba McVeigh Columba McVeigh, 19, was abducted and murdered in 1975

The IRA abducts and murders Columba McVeigh, a 17-year-old from Donaghmore, County Tyrone. He had allegedly confessed to being a British army agent with instructions to infiltrate the IRA. Despite a number of extensive searches at Bragan Bog near Emyvale, County Monaghan, his body has never been found.

May 1977

Captain Robert Nairac, 29, is abducted by the IRA in south Armagh. The SAS-trained officer is taken from outside a pub where he had been singing Irish rebel songs and brought across the border to a field at Ravensdale, County Louth. His body has never been found.

April 1978

Brendan Megraw, 23, is abducted and murdered by the IRA, who claimed the Belfast man had confessed to being an undercover British agent. His wife was expecting their first baby at the time. Despite extensive searches, his body has never been found.

May 1978

Friends Brian McKinney, 22, and John McClory, 18, are abducted and murdered after being accused of stealing IRA weapons for use in robberies.

Their bodies were uncovered near a bog in County Monaghan in 1999.

March 1979

Gerard Evans, 24, goes missing in County Monaghan while hitchhiking home to Crossmaglen in south Armagh. No group has ever admitted his murder. His remains were recovered in County Louth in 2010.

January 1981

Eugene Simons, 26, goes missing from his home near Castlewellan, County Down, on New Year's Day. His body was discovered by chance in May 1984 in a bog near Dundalk, County Louth.

Danny McIlhone Danny McIlhone went missing from his west Belfast home in 1981
July 1981

Danny McIlhone goes missing from his west Belfast home. The IRA said Mr McIlhone was not suspected of being an informer but was being questioned about stealing weapons - it was claimed he was killed in a struggle with the person who was guarding him. His remains were found in 2008.

August 1981

Charlie Armstrong, 57, goes missing on his way to Mass in Crossmaglen. His remains were found in 2010.

May 1984

Body of Eugene Simons is discovered.

May 1985

Seamus Ruddy, 32, originally from Newry, County Down, goes missing. He had been working as a teacher in Paris. It is believed he was killed by members of the INLA. Fresh searches were carried out in 2008 after his family were told his remains were in a forest in Normandy, but they found nothing.

August 1994

The IRA announces a "complete cessation of military operations". This ceasefire holds until the bomb in London's Docklands in February 1996.

December 1995

The INLA admits it killed Newry man Seamus Ruddy.

July 1997

The IRA announces its second ceasefire.

April 1998

The Good Friday Agreement is signed, following years of intensive peace talks between political parties in Northern Ireland and the British and Irish governments.

September 1998

Bereavement counselling group WAVE sets up a confidential freephone number for anonymous callers to provide information on the Disappeared. In the same month, an IRA spokesperson acknowledges to the newspaper An Phoblacht/ Republican News that the IRA secretly killed and buried "a small number of people" in the 1970s. The interview said the IRA had set up a special unit to trace the bodies.

Seamus Ruddy Seamus Ruddy, 32, from Newry, County Down, was working as a teacher in Paris when he went missing
February 1999

Information emerges to suggest Newry man Seamus Ruddy is buried in Rouen, France, but nothing is found in subsequent searches.

March 1999

The IRA admits it has located the graves of nine people it abducted and killed in the 1970s and 1980s. It claims most of those they had murdered had been giving information to the British security forces, an allegation denied by the victims' families.

April 1999

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) is established by a treaty between the British and Irish governments. The commission's purpose is to obtain information that may lead to where the remains of the Disappeared are buried. Information given to the commission is strictly confidential and is not passed to other agencies or used in prosecutions.

May 1999

The remains of the first of the Disappeared - Eamon Molloy - are recovered near Dundalk, County Louth, and returned to his family for burial. His remains had been placed in a coffin and left above ground at Faughart cemetery.

In a separate development, the IRA provides information about the location of the Disappeared to the ICLVR through intermediaries. As a result of this, digging begins at six sites in the Republic of Ireland.

June 1999

The remains of Brian McKinney and John McClory are discovered in a double grave after 30 days of searches at a bog in Colagh, County Monaghan.

September 1999

The remains of Brian McKinney and John McClory are returned to their families, 21 years after their disappearance. Both men are laid to rest in Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast. Brian McKinney's mother Margaret tells the Irish News: "I wouldn't have wanted to go to my grave without Brian being properly buried. For years I've had nowhere to mourn him. Now I'll be able to go to his grave and talk to him. I'll have somewhere to bring flowers and to cry."

Jean McConville and family The body of mother-of-10 Jean McConville was discovered on a beach in County Louth
August 2003

Remains unearthed by a dog walker at a beach at Shelling Hill, County Louth, are thought to be those of Jean McConville.

September 2003

A third search for the remains of Columba McVeigh at a bog at Bragan, County Monaghan, ends without success. The latest dig concentrated on an area about the size of a football field, adjacent to where previous searches took place in 1999 and 2000.

October 2003

DNA tests confirm that remains found buried on a County Louth beach are those of Jean McConville. Irish police confirmed that she had died from a bullet wound to the head. Her remains are returned to her family, and her funeral takes place in Belfast.

The IRA issues a statement apologising for the grief caused to the families of the Disappeared, saying it was sorry their suffering had continued for so long. The apology is dismissed by the families of Jean McConville and Columba McVeigh.

May 2007

The mother of Columba McVeigh dies at the age of 82. A tireless campaigner for the return of her son's body, she had been ill for some time.

November 2008

The remains of Danny McIlhone are discovered at bogland near the Blessington Lakes in County Wicklow, following information given to the ICLVR. In a statement, his family said: "We as a family are now at peace and now have the opportunity to given our brother Danny a Christian burial and to lay him to rest with our beloved mother and father." The discovery followed two unsuccessful searches in 1999 and 2000.

October 2009
Charlie Armstrong Charles Armstrong's remains were discovered in a bog in County Monaghan

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains begins investigating the disappearance of Peter Wilson.

November 2009

Legislation comes into force to allow families of the Disappeared whose bodies have not been found to settle their affairs. Under the Presumption of Death Act, the families of missing persons will, for the first time, be able to have the presumed death of their family member confirmed by the High Court, and a certificate of presumed death made available to them by the General Register Office.

February 2010

The name of west Belfast man Joe Lynskey is added to the list of the Disappeared. A spokesman for the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains says he is satisfied the case "falls within its remit". It follows a number of newspaper reports based on briefings from "senior republican sources" that the IRA had murdered Mr Lynskey.

July 2010

The remains of Charlie Armstrong are discovered in a bog in County Monaghan. The discovery is made less than 300 metres away from where the bodies of Belfast friends John McClory and Brian McKinney were found more than 11 years previously.

September 2010

Charlie Armstrong's funeral takes place in Crossmaglen, almost 30 years after he went missing.

October 2010

The remains of Gerry Evans are found at a site in Carrickrobin, County Louth, following searches based on information given to the ICLVR. His remains were discovered shortly after it announced its search at the site was winding down. They had unearthed an area the size of four football fields during 16 months of painstaking excavation but had found nothing. Mr Evans was laid to rest in the grounds of St Patrick's Church in Crossmaglen, not far from the grave of Charlie Armstrong.

Peter Wilson's funeral Peter Wilson's funeral took place more than 30 years after he went missing
November 2010

The remains of Peter Wilson are discovered at Waterfoot beach in County Antrim. Archaeologists and other experts were sent to the beach in the Glens of Antrim after a tip-off to the ICLVR. His sister, Anne Connolly, said it had been a shock to learn he might be buried in Waterfoot as her mother, Lily, who died three years previously, had often visited the beach.

August 2011

DNA tests confirm that a body exhumed from a graveyard in Scotstown, County Monaghan, are not those of Columba McVeigh.

September 2012

Another search for the remains of Columba McVeigh begins in Bragan, County Monaghan, but it is abandoned a few weeks later because of bad weather. It resumes in the spring but again nothing is found.

September 2013

A sixth search for the body of Columba McVeigh ends in failure. Trees are cleared at Bragan Bog, County Monaghan. However, nothing is found.

November 2013

The ICLVR issues a fresh appeal for information about the location of the remains of the Disappeared. It follows the broadcast of a BBC/RTÉ documentary highlighting the plight of families with missing relatives.

More on This Story

More Northern Ireland stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Abandoned stadiumShow's over...

    ...but what happens next? BBC Culture takes a look at what happens to abandoned stadiums

Programmes

  • A woman sits on a bed in a scene from Gustav Deutsch's latest film about Edward Hopper's paintingsTalking Movies Watch

    How film-maker Gustav Deutsch brought Edward Hopper’s paintings to life

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.