New pleas to find Sunderland soldier Robert Nairac's body on 40th anniversary of his murder by IRA

Captain Nairac pictured on the streets of Ulster in his Army uniform.
Captain Nairac pictured on the streets of Ulster in his Army uniform.
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New pleas have been made to trace the remains of a Sunderland soldier on the 40th anniversary of his murder by the IRA.

Captain Robert Nairac was executed by the terrorist organisation on May 15, 1977, after spending the previous evening undercover in a pro-Catholic pub inside the Northern Irish border.

Canon William Burke.

Canon William Burke.

While six people have been convicted of their part in the killing, which occurred during Ulster’s lengthy Troubles, his body has still to be recovered amid repeated rumours that it was fed

to an industrial meat mincer.

Yet investigators are now openly disputing the theory and hope that today’s anniversary will prompt people to come forward with fresh information to end the mystery.

A close friend suffering with cancer has also backed the new plea by saying: “ I want to see him get the full Catholic funeral he deserves before I die.”

Captain Nairac, whose family lived in Thornhill Gardens, off Tunstall Road, Ashbrooke, is one of only three “disappeared” victims of Republican terrorists whose remains have still to be

found nearly 20 years after the Troubles ended.

Geoff Knupfer, the lead investigator for the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, believes he is buried in remote countryside close to where he was murdered on

the south side of the border.

Dismissing the mincer story, he added: “It was a story put about by those personally involved.

“It was really about distracting attention from this area after the murder scene was found. We believe he is buried somewhere in north County Louth.”

Captain Nairac’s remains are believed to be hidden in dense woodland in Ravensdale Forest although excavations have never taken place because the authorities do not know where to

start digging .

The 28-year-old Grenadier Guardsman was working in military intelligence at the time of his death although the truth behind his visit to the Three Steps pub, in Dromintee, South Armagh,

is still unclear.

With the British Army saying little at the time, Republicans claimed he was a member of the SAS undercover regiment and the mastermind behind murders of Catholics carried out by

Protestant terrorists.

Mr Knupfer told Irish TV documentary series Prime Time: “We’ve tried to undertake a degree of research into his background because of these stories and really to find out if they were

fact or fiction.

“We’ve done a lot of work on them and we’ve not found a shred of evidence anywhere to support what are effectively wild allegations that he was involved in murder and mayhem and

atrocities.

“He wasn’t even in the island of Ireland when some of these events took place.”

Close friend Canon William Burke, who served with Captain Nairac in Northern Ireland and became an Anglican priest after the murder, added: “I accept that all sides made mistakes, that

includes British Army as well as other side, but Robert didn’t do what he was accused of.”

Speaking directly to anyone with information, Canon Burke, 70, who lives in the south of England, said: “Please may we have him back so that his family and friends can give him the

funeral he deserves.

“I am his alibi on a lot of occasions because I was with him at the time he is supposed to have done these things.

“He was a devout Catholic and was working in very difficult times to try to make a positive difference.

“He was not a murderer.”

Background: Conflicting claims surrounding soldier's life and death

Timeline: Robert Nairac's life and the search for his body