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Suspected IRA victim's body identified after 31 years

By Peter Taggart, For CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gerry Evans had been missing since 1979
  • 16 people disappeared during decades of violence between republicans and unionists
  • At least seven of the disappeared are still missing

Belfast, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- Human remains found in the Republic of Ireland last month have been positively identified as those of Gerry Evans, one of the IRA's so-called Disappeared, a special commission said Monday.

Evans, from Crossmaglen in south Armagh, Northern Ireland, was 24 when he vanished in March 1979 in County Monaghan, Ireland.

The Provisional Irish Republican Army is suspected of abducting, murdering and secretly burying him.

The remains were recovered last month in marshy ground at Carrickrobin, only days after officials had given up hope of finding a body following a 16-month search.

The Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains said Monday that Dublin coroner Brian Farrell confirmed the identification and authorized the release of the remains to Evans' family.

"The thoughts of everyone in the commission are with the Evans family at this difficult time," the commission said.

Evans' remains will be returned to his family on Thursday and his funeral is due to take place on Saturday.

Teams searching for the body of another of the so-called "Disappeared" in Northern Ireland found human remains earlier this month, they announced.

Initial speculation is that it is the body of Peter Wilson, whose family said November 2 that it was "a special day."

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

The Provisional Irish Republican Army admitted responsibility for 11 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.

Eight bodies have been recovered and identified, including Evans'. Wilson's would be the ninth.