Skip to main content

Remains found in search for Northern Ireland victim

From Peter Taggart, For CNN
  • 16 people disappeared during decades of violence between republicans and unionists
  • The body is thought to be that of Peter Wilson, missing since 1973
  • His family hails "a special day" even before identification is made
  • At least seven of the disappeared are still missing

Dublin, Ireland (CNN) -- Teams searching for the body of one of the so-called "Disappeared" in Northern Ireland found human remains Tuesday, they announced.

Initial speculation is that it is the body of Peter Wilson, whose family said Tuesday that it was "a special day."

"Peter has been missing for 37 years. For 37 years, we have missed him and have often wondered what happened," they said.

A total of 16 people disappeared in Northern Ireland between 1972 and 1985, when the province was engulfed in violence between pro-Irish republicans and pro-British unionists.

The Provisional Irish Republican Army admitted responsibility for 12 of the disappearances, while the Irish National Liberation Army -- also a republican group -- said it was responsible for another, according to the commission searching for the bodies.

Four remain unexplained, including Peter Wilson.

Seven bodies have been recovered and identified. Another body was found last month and is being tested, British media reported.

The remains found Tuesday were discovered during a dig on a beach at Waterfoot in County Antrim.

Wilson's family welcomed the discovery, even before formal identification was made.

"Today on All Souls Day his body has been found, and while that does not tell us what happened at least now we will be able to give him a Christian burial," the family said in a statement.

"Right now it has not completely sunk in," they added. "We were hopeful when the dig began, but we did not expect a result so soon."

Wilson, who had special needs, was 21 when he went missing from his home in west Belfast in 1973.

Police suspect he was murdered and secretly buried by republicans.

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains says the recovery at Waterfoot is ongoing and the formal identification process will take some time.