Lead forensics believe the body of Columba McVeigh, one of "The Disappeared" murdered by the Irish Republican Army, may have been moved from the search area.

The lead forensic scientist in the search for The Disappeared believes the remains of a teenager kidnapped and murdered by the IRA 44 years ago may have been removed from a search area scoured several times over the years.

Geoff Knupfer, of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, said there was a possibility that Columba McVeigh’s remains may have been removed from their original site and reburied somewhere else.

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Hopes raised last year for the recovery of Columba’s remains in an inch-by-inch search of a bog near Emyvale, Co. Monaghan, vanished this week when the hunt was abandoned.

Columba, from Donaghmore, Co. Tyrone, was kidnapped at the age of 19 in November 1975 and murdered after allegedly confessing to being a British Army agent instructed to infiltrate the IRA.

Knupfer said, “Our hearts go out to the McVeigh family. If Columba was in the area we have been searching then we would have found him.

“Everyone we have spoken to in the republican movement who can speak with authority on the case is adamant that Columba was buried where they told us he was.

“We have no reason to believe that we have been deliberately misled.”

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He said Bragan Bog covers a huge area and it may be that Columba’s remains are indeed on the bog, but clearly not where searchers were told to look.

Knupfer added, “If he was moved then we need someone who has knowledge of that to come forward.”

Columba is one of 16 who were “disappeared” during the Troubles. Three remain to be found: McVeigh, Joe Lynskey, and Robert Nairac.

Columba’s sister Dympna Kerr said it was impossible to describe the continuing pain and torment for the family.

She said, “There’s yet another year passing and another search ending with Columba still lying in some desolate unmarked hole in the ground where he was left by his murderers.

“All we want is for him to be brought home to be buried alongside his mother and father so that he and they can rest in peace.”

Columba’s brother, Oliver, said the family were “devastated” by the failure to find his remains, but also angry.

He said, “We are angry that people who have information are watching us suffer and are doing nothing.”

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Columba McVeigh, was murdered by the IRA 44 years ago. His body has never been found.