Seamus Ruddy has not been seen alive for over three decades but last month his body was found in a French forest.

To the joy of his family, it meant he was finally given a burial by those who loved him whilst he lived and treasured his memory in death.

In 1985, Ruddy, then aged 33, was working as a teacher in Paris when the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) abducted him and stashed his body in a forest at Pont-de-l'Arche near the city of Rouen.

A gifted schoolboy growing up in Newry in Co. Down, he won a place at Trinity College, Dublin, to study mathematics.

A republican, he joined the IRSP (an offshoot of the INLA itself a splinter IRA group) and was even arrested for gunrunning in 1979 - he was acquitted at his trial.

But he grew disillusioned and quit the group to teach English in France. Although he had left Ireland, the Troubles cast a long shadow over his life and he got caught up in an INLA factional dispute.

INLA members were convinced he knew where a stash of arms were near Rouen, and having captured him, they drove him there and eventually, killed him.

When Ruddy’s family heard he was missing, they alerted the INLA and told them that they would be going to Paris to help in the search for him.

“This guy just pointed at me and said 'If you go to Paris you're dead'. And then pointed to my brother and said 'You're dead.' And he said 'All of your family circle are under threat,’" he sister Anne recalled to Al Jazeera.

📻 "This ends a 32 year wait for our family"

Anne Morgan, sister of Seamus Ruddy, one of Disappeared


— BBC Evening Extra (@BBCevex) May 10, 2017

"I just said, 'Well I'm going to Paris to see my brother's clothes. I will be going. He's my brother and I'm searching for him, I'm not searching for an ex-member of your group or anything else. We will be going to Paris.' And just like that, me and my brother stood up and left the room."

At that point the family had wondered whether the INLA could have been involved in the disappearance of Seamus but after that meeting they felt certain.

And whilst the INLA did not follow through with their threat, the family were incredibly scared they would.

Séamus Ruddy was laid to rest alongside his mother and father in Newry today. A moving day for his family. Go dtuga Dia suaimhneas sioraí dó

— Justin McNulty (@JustinMcNu1ty) June 17, 2017

"That was a very scary time,” Anne recalled, “because there was a lot of bombs under cars and things. When I would be taking the children to school I would look under the car."

Years later, the INLA confessed to killing Ruddy but it is only now, 32 years on, that his body has been found - meaning in total there now remain three “Disappeared” victims of the Troubles, whose bodies may be buried but may never be visited by their families.

They are Columba McVeigh, Joe Lynskey and Captain Robert Nairac.

The British and Irish governments established the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR) in 1999 which set out to track down The Disappeared.

Jon Hill, who has long worked for the ICLVR, visited the forest where Ruddy was buried ten times before the successful excavation last week.

"All those years of waiting. Inside a minute, life has changed for us." Anne Morgan, sister of Seamus Ruddy on tonight's @BBCevex

— Claire Noble (@clairenoble_) May 10, 2017

"If you're a meter out you might as well be a mile out," he told Al Jazeera.

As the crime took place decades ago, fragile memories may conjure up an imprecise picture, even if the witness in question thinks he’d being truthful.

"People's memories of what happened become clouded," Hill continues. "I would suggest they probably would have been quite nervous when it happened. Distances get blurred then, you think you're 10 feet from the road when actually you're 50 feet away."

Moreover, the landscape may have changed hugely over the years.

"I remember saying to one potential witness years ago, 'Well, where was the grave in relation to the tree line?'," Hill’s colleague Geoff Knupfer adds. "And he retorted, 'What tree line?'"

Five days into the search, Anne Morgan was on a train with her husband when her phone buzzes.

It was Hill on the end of the line.

Read more: The mystery man who went to Ireland to disappear (VIDEO)

Remembering today the socialist & republican #SeamusRuddy champion of working people & arguably one of Newry's greatest visionaries

— Ewan Morgan (@JeanMeslier1729) June 17, 2017

"We found remains," he told her.

"I cried and cried and my husband cried and I cried and the two of us stood crying and holding each other," Morgan remembers.

"During my life I've been to a lot of funerals … and at times, I used to wish, even when other Disappeared were found, I used to wish it was our Seamus. But now I will be, now I will bury him. That will be a sad day for me.""I just thought this grief would always be with me. But, hopefully, now the circle will be sealed and I will get peace."

Her mother told her that she always wanted to give her son a proper burial because "If his name is in stone people won't forget him."

Funeral of 'Disappeared' victim Seamus Ruddy takes place in Newry

— Belfast Telegraph (@BelTel) June 17, 2017

Now her wish has come true and Seamus Ruddy rests in the rich earth of his native Co. Down.

At his funeral, Bishop John McAreavey told the congregation that his burial at home meant his family finally had the chance to pay “a personal and dignified farewell to him" and that "in the months and years ahead they will be able to visit the grave where Seamus lies".

H/T: Al Jazeera/BBC News