British soldier turned priest appeals to IRA to return murdered officer’s body

Posted By: May 03, 2017

Father Burke told Prime Time that he left the British Army and became a priest as a result of Robert Nairac’s murder.

Source: RTÉ

The Dublin. Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A FORMER UNDERCOVER British soldier and colleague of murdered officer Captain Robert Nairac has appealed to the IRA to return his body.

Robert Nairac was abducted and murdered in May 1977 while working undercover in Co Armagh.

His colleague, who has since become a priest, told RTÉ’s Prime Time last night that he was glad that the bitterness of the Troubles was over, but that Robert Nairac’s family and friends wished for his body to be finally returned.

When asked what he wished to say to the IRA members who took Robert Nairac’s body from the murder scene at Ravensdale in Co Louth, Father William Burke said.

Please may we have him back, may we have his remains for a Catholic funeral mass for his family and his friends?

Father Burke traveled from England to visit the murder scene for the first time.

As an undercover officer in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, William Burke operated in west Belfast, while his fellow intelligence officer Robert Nairac operated in Co Armagh.

In his first ever interview about his work in Northern Ireland, Father Burke said he had left the British Army and became a priest as a result of Robert Nairac’s murder.

Father William Burke: a former colleague of Robert Nairac’s in the British army, a fellow undercover officer, and now a parish priest in England. Source: RTÉ

Robert Nairac was abducted after being attacked in the car park of the Three Steps Inn in Drumintee, Co Armagh.

At the time of his abduction, he was armed but in plain clothes and was pretending to be ‘Danny from Belfast’.

He was forced into a car and driven by a gang across the border and shot dead in a field. But by the time the murder scene was located, members of the IRA had removed his body, and there has been no trace of his remains.

The lead investigator with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, Geoff Knupfer, said last night that he was convinced that Robert Nairac’s body could be found.

He dismissed as a myth, a rumor that has circulated that Robert Nairac’s body was put through a meat processor.

“It was a story put about by those personally involved. It was really about distracting attention from this area after the murder scene was found. We believe he is buried somewhere in north Co Louth,” he said.

Knupfer also described as ‘wild allegations’, stories which have previously circulated about Robert Nairac which allege his involvement in certain killings and atrocities down the years.

The Commission for the Location of Victims Remains said it had investigated details of Robert Nairac’s military service and it had not found ‘one shred of evidence’ to support the allegations.

“We’ve tried to undertake a degree of research into his background because of these stories and really to find out if they were fact or fiction. We’ve done a lot of work on them.

“And we’ve not found a shred of evidence anywhere to support what are effectively wild allegations that he was involved in murder and mayhem and atrocities.

He wasn’t even in the island of Ireland when some of these events took place. And on other occasions he was elsewhere.
It’s sad really because it’s because of that alleged reputation we just do not get any support from people who are probably in a position to help.

Robert Nairac’s gun and his holster which were later found during the Garda investigation in Co Louth. Source: RTÉ

Geoff Knupfer said he believed false stories about Robert Nairac had led to people not coming forward with information.

The program also heard from a brother of IRA member John Francis Green— who was shot dead in a cross-border attack in Co Monaghan in 1975— that the Green family believed Robert Nairac was involved in some way in his brother’s killing.

Leo Green, himself a former IRA member, said his family did not bear Robert Nairac any acrimony and that his body should be returned.

“My brother’s death was not investigated North or South. There was a minimalist investigation. We know in our heads and hearts what happened. We would like some acknowledgment by the British state of their role or not.

“That’s what we are looking for. Although my family has a view that Robert Nairac was involved in my brother’s death, there is no feeling of acrimony towards him.”

The Nairac family entitlement to truth and Robert Nairac’s entitlement to a proper burial, his sibling’s entitlement to give him that proper burial, it’s up there with all the questions that IRA members families have.

To this day there have been no searches for the body of Robert Nairac, as the Commission don’t know where in Co Louth to excavate.

Fr. Burke said he was speaking out in support of his murdered friend, and that he would like to one day attend Robert Nairac’s funeral.

“I accept that all sides made mistakes, that includes British army as well as other sides, but Robert didn’t do what he was accused of.”