The Disappeared



Eighty year old Margaret McKinney lives in leafy, quiet Harrogate.

This unlikely looking campaigner took on a terrorist organisation, and won.

Her son Brian disappeared in 1978.

He was 23, but had special needs, and was barely literate.

He'd gone missing a few days beforehand, but returned 48 hours later beaten and distraught, having admitted his part in the robbery of an IRA-run bar.

His parents helped him repay the money and thought the matter resolved.

But he failed to come home from work a few days later, and Margaret knew he'd been abducted.

She could ask no one for help.

Attempts to question the IRA were met with intimidation.

For 17 years she lived in silence and fear.

She knew Brian was dead, but that was all.

As the political talks of the 90s gained pace, Margaret approached a community organisation dealing with the traumatic aftermath of 'the troubles' - WAVE - and asked them to help her.

Margaret met politicians, Prime Ministers and, eventually, President Clinton to ask for help.

She also, gradually, found the 16 other families with similar stories to her.

Legislation was rushed through parliament so that anyone coming forward with information about where the bodies lay could not be prosecuted, and The Commission for the Location of Victims Remains was set up.

Huge excavations began, and finally Margaret was able to find and bury her son.

Bodies are still being found - the latest last November - but the money is running out to continue the searches.

Margaret has seen two of her friends die before their sons' bodies were recovered - she wants the last six families to be able to bury their children too.

Producer: Rachel Hooper

A Falling Tree Production for BBC Radio 4.