British soldier turned priest pleads for body of Army friend murdered in Northern Ireland to be returned
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British soldier turned priest pleads for body of Army friend murdered in Northern Ireland to be returned

NEARLY 40 years after the murder of British soldier Robert Nairac, a former soldier turned priest has pleaded that his remains be returned to his family. 

Robert Nairac. (Picture: RTÉ)

Robert Nairac is one of The Disappeared, 16 individuals who disappeared during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The Provisional IRA admitted responsibility for 13 of the 16, while one was admitted by republican paramilitary group the INLA.

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No attribution has been given to the remaining two.

To date the remains of 10 victims have been recovered.

From the 16, four people - Seamus Ruddy, Columba McVeigh, Joe Lynskey and Robert Nairac - have yet to be found.

But a fresh search for Seamus Ruddy began yesterday, May 2, in Rouen, France.

Fr William Burke, a British Army soldier turned priest based in England, made the plea while speaking on RTÉ's Prime Time on May 2.

The former undercover soldier said: "Robert was a colleague, and a friend. It's unfinished business for me.

"I became the priest that he didn't have when he was killed.

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"I wouldn't have left the army company if it hadn't have been for that episode.

Fr William Burke, who is now a priest in the south east of England, said he left the army after Nairac's murder. (Picture: RTÉ)

"All the people involved in the Troubles - whatever side they're on - are entitled to have a decent burial and respects paid by their family and friends.

"I would like to go to Robert's Funeral Mass before I die," Fr Burke said.

Speaking directly to the people who know where Robert Nairac is buried, Fr Burke pleased: "Please may we have him back...for a Catholic Funeral Mass for his family and friends."

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Fr William Burke with reporter Barry Cummins on Flurry Bridge in Louth where Robert Nairac was killed. (Picture: RTÉ)

Robert Nairac was on his fourth tour of Northern Ireland when he was abducted and murdered on May 15, 1977.

At the time of his death, Nairac was undercover as 'Danny from west Belfast' in a pub in Dromintree, south Armagh.

Robert Nairac undercover as 'Danny from west Belfast.' (Picture: RTÉ)

In a statement from 1977, the IRA said Nairac was recognised from photographs, then abducted and interrogated before he was kicked, punched, beaten and shot at Flurry Bridge, Ravenstown, in north Co Louth.

Nairac's body was then moved from a nearby field, leaving behind his clothes and weapons used in the murder.

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Following his death, a rumour was spread that his body had been disposed of in a meat grinder.

But speaking to RTÉ, Geoff Knupfer, who works with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR), said: "We have it on good authority that he was buried and his body was not put through a meat processor.

"His body was moved within the days immediately following these events and buried.

"We understand that he was then moved from that location and reburied.

"We don't know exactly where, but we're working on the basis that it would have been extremely foolhardy to drive around the area with a body.

"The chances are that the grave is in this general vicinity [in north Co Louth]."

But following his death a series of allegations were made about Nairac's involvement in atrocities in the 1970s, including the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the Miami Showband Massacre.

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Following an investigation by the ICLVR, it was found that the allegations made about Nairac were completely untrue, and he had not been in Ireland during the times of the incidents.

As a result of the allegations, Geoff Knupfer said people are reluctant to come forward with information which could lead to the discovery of Nairac's remains.

"It’s sad really because it’s because of that alleged reputation we just do not get any support from people who are probably in a position to help," he said.