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Is this where Provos buried teen?; GARDAI DIG BOG FOR DISAPPEARED COLUMBA.


THE hopes of a forlorn mother robbed of her son by the IRA 28 years ago lay on a stretch of bogland the size of a football pitch as police began a fresh hunt for his body yesterday.

Vera McVeigh couldn't face the agony of watching them dig for murdered kidnap victim Columba, the boy she hasn't seen since he was 17.

Two searches have already taken place in 1999 and 2000 at the bog in Emyvale, Co Monaghan, where it is thought he is buried.

A third dig at the same location comes a week after the IRA said it had given fresh information about his grave to the Irish Government.

As the search teams moved in, Vera stayed at her home in Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, to pray that this time they will find him.

"I would like to watch them, and I may be able to force myself to do it," she said.

"Now I can only pray that his body will be found so he can be buried next to his father, Paddy. We had no family life from when that happened to Columba. He disappeared - how would you have a life after that?"

The Provos executed him after picking him up in Dublin in 1975, where he worked as a painter. Four years ago they passed on the location of his secret grave as outrage forced them to reveal the fate of people who disappeared in their murder campaign.

Garda Superintendent John Farelly said the McVeigh family was being kept informed of the developments.

A spokesman for the Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (CLVR), said: "We would caution against over-optimism.

"Experience has shown that the passage of time can render unreliable even the most precise information from the best of sources." It is believed the IRA gang went back to the site some weeks ago and marked out the area where they claimed they buried the body.

The information was then passed to the Garda by the CLVR.

However, because of the rugged landscape in the bog, which is located up a dirt track, gardai say it will be extremely difficult to find any remains.

The digging will be carried out at two locations and the officer leading the operation said his men will work until Friday.

The fresh search comes 12 days after remains, believed to be those of another of the Disappeared, Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville, were found accidently on a beach close to Carlingford, Co Louth.

In 1999, gardai recovered the bodies of Eamon Molloy, left in a coffin in a graveyard in Co Louth, as well as Belfast pals John McClory and Brian McKinney, whose remains were found after weeks of digging in a bog in Co Monaghan.

The bodies of four Belfast men who the IRA claim were buried in Counties Wicklow and Meath have yet to be found.


GRIM TASK: Gardai use a digger to excavate the bog in Co Monaghan yesterday in the search for Columba McVeigh, right; SEARCH: Gardai at bog
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 9, 2003
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