14 May 1977: The strange death and disappearance of Captain Robert Nairac on this day. In one of the most bizarre and deadly incidents of the Conflict in the North in the 1970s this British Officer (in Mufti at the time he was armed with a 9mm Browning pistol ) was set upon in the carpark of The Three Steps pub in Dromintee, South Armagh. He is said to have told regulars of the pub that he was Danny McErlaine, a motor mechanic and member of the Official IRA.
At around 11.45 p.m., he was abducted following a struggle in the and taken across the border into the Republic near Ravensdale Wood in Co Louth. Here he was set upon and brutally interrogated but would admit to nothing. When he knew the game was up and he going to be executed his last words were ‘Bless me Father for I have sinned’.
Nairac was an experienced Intelligence Officer who began his military career with the Grenadier Guards before switching to Intelligence duties. He was used to taking chances - indeed he was known for taking exceptional risks to gather information on the IRA.
Had he been an SAS member, he would not have been allowed to operate in the way he did. Before his death we had been very concerned at the lack of checks on his activities. No one seemed to know who his boss was, and he appeared to have been allowed to get out of control, deciding himself what tasks he would do.
Ghost Force by Former SAS Warrant Officer Ken Connor
His disappearance trigged a huge manhunt North and South of the Border when news of his abduction broke. But despite the best efforts of the Crown Forces and An Garda Siochana his remains were never located.
Was there a darker side to Captain Robert Nairac? He has been linked to some of the more murkier operations that happened at that time along the Border and it was known he was prepared to countenance taking on the IRA ‘at their own game’. But nothing has ever been substantiated and with the passage of time probably never will.
He was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1978. In part the Citation reads as follows:
Captain Nairac's exceptional courage and acts of the greatest heroism in circumstances of extreme peril showed devotion to duty and personal courage second to none.
To this day he is counted amongst the Disappeared whose bodies have never been found.