New plea to trace body of Sunderland soldier on 45th anniversary of his murder by the IRA

An anniversary plea has been made for new information to help trace the missing body of a murdered soldier.

By Gavin Ledwith
Friday, 13th May 2022, 3:01 pm

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Sunderland-raised Captain Robert Nairac was kidnapped and executed by the IRA 45 years ago this weekend during Northern Ireland’s bloody Troubles.

While six men were later convicted of their part in his murder, none of them revealed what happened to his remains.

Now Geoff Knupfer, the lead investigator for the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR), has said: “We would appeal to anyone with any information about where Robert is to please contact us.

Sunderland soldier Captain Robert Nairac, second right, on patrol in Ulster during the 1970s.

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"Whatever information we are provided with cannot be used in any court of law.

"It is a humanitarian issue so that we can return Robert to his family and his surviving sisters so that they can give him a burial.”

Mr Knupfer believes the Grenadier Guard’s remains are buried in dense County Louth countryside, in the Republic of Ireland, close to the border with Ulster.

A 2019 investigation in part of the vast Ravensdale Forest found no evidence of a grave and a new search will only commence once the ICLVR receives intelligence about a more precise location.

Murdered Sunderland soldier Captain Robert Nairac's body has still to be recovered following his execution by the IRA in 1977.

Mr Knupfer has also repeatedly discounted rumours that Captain Nairac’s body was quickly fed to an industrial mincer.

Nor does he think a change of administration in Northern Ireland, with the nationalist Sinn Fein party potentially set to lead a new Assembly, will lead to a breakthrough.

He said: “It is not an administrative issue. Both administrations are happy for us to continue with our work.

"This is down to people directly or indirectly involved in what happened.”

Geoff Knupfer is leading the search for Captain Nairac's remains.

Captain Nairac, whose family lived in Thornhill Gardens, off Tunstall Road, Ashbrooke, between around 1949-69, reputedly sang Republican songs in the Three Steps pub, in Dromintee, South Armagh, on May 14, 1977, while working undercover.

After his behaviour aroused suspicion, he was overpowered and abducted following a fight in the bar’s car park and executed the following morning across the border in the Republic of Ireland.

His pistol and traces of his hair and blood were recovered as evidence with one of his murderers later admitting in court: “He never told us anything. He was a great soldier.”

Captain Nairac, who was 28, is one of only four out of the so-called 17 Disappeared whose remains have still to be recovered following the end of The Troubles.

Mr Knupfer has said: "This is an entirely humanitarian process and we really do need help to return these lost souls to their loved ones for Christian burial.

"I would remind everyone that since its inception in 1999 no one has ever been interviewed as a suspect, arrested, charged or convicted as a result of information that was passed to the commission on the Disappeared.

"Such information can only be used to recover and repatriate victims".

The ICLVR can be contacted on 00800 55585500 or via email at [email protected]

A £20,000 Crimestoppers reward is also on offer with further information available at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.