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'I JUST WANT TO HAVE MY CHARLIE HOME' Widow tells of relief as body found in bogland.

Byline: MICHELLE O'KEEFFE; BRIAN HUTTON

THE widow of Charlie Armstrong, whose remains were found after 30 years, yesterday said: "I just want to have him home."

But the family of Mr Armstrong - who is believed to have been murdered by the IRA - face a month-long wait for confirmation that the remains found are his.

Forensic investigators yesterday continued to dig at isolated bogland in Co Monaghan where partial human remains were uncovered in a shallow grave on Thursday.

The 57-year-old father of five, who vanished on his way to Mass from his home in Crossmaglen, South Armagh, in 1981, was one of the so-called Disappeared who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republicans during the Troubles.

His wife Kathleen said: "I know one thing, I wouldn't wish it on anybody.

"It is a terrible thing to happen to anybody, especially when we had such a young family.

"I just had to keep going on.

"I just want to have him home, give him a Christian burial and have a grave to go to.

"I have never had a grave to go to and at least now I will know where I was going to."

Mr Armstrong's son Terry, who was 15 when his dad disappeared, added: "It was a difficult time to lose him - I was still at school and doing exams.

"It was always on my mind, and is always on my mind.

"It has never got any easier." It is understood a map passed to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains a year ago was key to Thursday's discovery near Inniskeen, just a few miles from Mr Armstrong's home across the border.

ICLVR commissioner Frank Murray said positively identifying the remains could take up to four weeks.

He added: "We cannot give an authoritative decision on whose remains were discovered.

"But we would be cautiously optimistic and pleased that we have discovered the remains of Charlie Armstrong as we have no indication of anyone else being buried in the area."

The remains are to be taken to the Republic's State Pathologist's office in Dublin.

Samples will be taken which will be sent to a laboratory in England where a special DNA database contains the genetic codes of all the families of the Disappeared.

Last July, a map containing fresh information and indicating a previously unsearched area in Co Monaghan was sent anonymously to investigators.

Mr Murray signalled the terrain of the remote bogland and bad weather had hampered the progress of the searches.

He said: "It's a very difficult site. [It's] a strange mixture of a quarry and a bog, and water-logged most of the time.

"Obviously our searches are intelligence-led, information-led, but it did require an extensive amount of excavation of a difficult bit comprising part bog and part quarry."

The latest phase of the dig began at the end of June.

Mr Murray added: "They [the remains] were a few feet in the ground I understand."

The terrain was very waterlogged and the operation involved digging a channel through the rock to drain out the water.

Mr Murray said the bad weather of recent years had not helped the hunt.

The IRA admitted in 1999 that it murdered and buried nine of the Disappeared in secret locations.

The same year, the ICLVR, which reports to the Northern Ireland Office in Belfast and the Department of Justice in Dublin, was set up by the British and Irish governments.

In 2007, they brought in Geoff Knupfer, the investigative scientist who helped find the bodies of the victims of Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, to spearhead a new scientific approach to the searches.

This included bringing in an archaeological "time-team", made up of geophysicists who used ground radar, scanners, probes and Cadaver dogs which detect human remains.

The bodies of five Disappeared have been found - Eamon Molloy, Brian McKinney, John McClory, Jean McConville and Danny McIlhone.

Others who vanished during the Troubles include Gerry Evans, Captain Robert Nairac and Seamus Ruddy, who disappeared in France and whose murder was admitted by the INLA.

Mr Murray said searches were still going on in Monaghan, Meath and Louth for other victims.

He added: "We have ongoing physical activity at three or four other sites at the minute."

CAPTION(S):

BEST OF TIMES The last picture taken of Charlie Armstrong, with his grandson WAIT Kathleen SCENE Gardai at the site where the remains were found in Co Monaghan
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Jul 31, 2010
Words:742
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