Body remains have been dug up on a beach in Northern Ireland where an IRA murder victim was secretly buried after going missing nearly 40 years ago.
The family of Peter Wilson, 21, was called away to the Co Antrim coast today just minutes after finishing a silent All Souls Day prayer vigil with other grieving relatives in front of Parliament Buildings, Belfast.
Later they declared: "This is a special day."
Mr Wilson would be the ninth so-called Disappeared victim to be recovered. He was abducted and later killed by the Provisionals after leaving his home in west Belfast in August 1973.
Archaeologists and other experts carried out a painstaking examination in the seaside village of Waterfoot in the Glens of Antrim.
The unemployed Catholic man, who had learning disabilities, left his home in the Beechmount area of west Belfast.
His family added today: "This is a special day for our family - Peter has been missing for 37 years. For 37 years, we have missed him and have often wondered what happened.
"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.
"Right now it has not completely sunk in - we were hopeful when the dig began, but we did not expect a result so soon."
Fifteen men and one woman disappeared during the Troubles and their families fear they were killed by republicans.
The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) has been behind the search which produced remains today. A spokesman said formal identification would take some time.
Mr Wilson's family believes the IRA was responsible for the murder although the organisation's leadership has never officially admitted the killing.
The new search by the ICLVR was triggered by a tip-off understood to have come from within the republican movement.
In a cruel twist it has emerged that Mr Wilson's mother, brother and sisters often visited the beauty spot without ever knowing he could have been buried beneath their feet.
The latest excavation is the first search undertaken in Northern Ireland and the first in a populated area.
Patricia Gearon, sister of Mr Wilson, carried a wreath today in a silent walk at Parliament Buildings for the Disappeared.
Other victims' families attending included Kathleen Armstrong, who carried a black wreath with white lilies symbolising those who have not been found. This year she removed one of the lilies following the recovery of the body of her husband Charlie in July.
Mrs Armstrong and her family were accompanied by friend and neighbour Mary Evans, who is awaiting DNA confirmation that remains found last month are that of her son Gerry.
Anne Morgan, whose brother Seamus Ruddy is thought to be buried in France, believes the silent walk is significant for the families.
"We carry the symbolic black wreath with the white lilies which represents those who are still missing. Our walk at Stormont each year is a reminder that our plight is ongoing and that every effort needs to be made to bring our loved ones home for Christian burial."
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said: "My thoughts are with the Wilson family at this time and I would hope that confirmation would be speedy to ease the burden of the final wait the family will endure."
Nationalist SDLP Northern Ireland Assembly member Declan O'Loan said the discovery was welcome.
"The local community, who have been gathering in the evenings at Waterfoot to pray for a successful search, will also find great comfort in this find as the entire operation has had an immense impact on people in this area," he said.Reuse content