Tributes have been paid to the “quiet but powerful” widow of one of Northern Ireland’s Disappeared, who has died aged 90.
Kathleen Armstrong’s husband Charlie was one of the 16 people who were murdered and secretly buried by republicans during the course of Northern Ireland’s troubled past.
Mr Armstrong was last seen on his way to Mass in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh in August 1981.
His remains lay undiscovered for almost 30 years, until they were found in July 2010 in a bog at Colgagh, Inniskeen, Co Monaghan following a search by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR).
Actor James Nesbitt was among those who paid tribute to Mrs Armstrong, who died in a nursing home on Friday.
“I’ve known Kathleen for many years, and like all who met her, including presidents and prime ministers, it was her warmth, kindness and a deep spiritual presence that stayed with you for ever after,” he said.
“Despite the almost unimaginable pain and grief of not only losing Charlie, but for the best part of 30 years not knowing where he lay, she never let it get in the way of the compassion she felt and showed to others, especially those who suffered the same pain and grief.”
Sandra Peake, chief executive of the Wave Trauma Centre, which has supported the families of the Disappeared since the 1990s, described Mrs Armstrong as an “exceptional woman of grace with a heart of gold”.
“She was a woman of great faith and serenity,” she said.
“She never gave up hoping and praying that Charlie would be brought home.
“She never accused anyone or expressed bitterness.
“She was the absolute embodiment of fortitude and dignity in the face of an enduring tragedy.
“And there was a no more warm and welcoming place than Kathleen’s home, and everyone who crossed the door felt so much better for having been in her company.”
Geoff Knupfer, the lead investigator of the ICLVR, said it was “very sad news”.
“Kathleen was a lovely woman and so gracious in all her dealings with the ICLVR,” he said.
“Everyone involved was so glad that we were able to return Charlie’s remains for the Christian burial that had been denied for so long.
“We all knew what it meant to Kathleen to be able to lay Charlie to rest.”
Mrs Armstrong is survived by her daughter Anna and sons Charles, Jim and Terry.
The search goes on for the final three members of the Disappeared whose remains are still missing.
Anyone with information that could help find the remains of teenager Columba McVeigh, former monk Joe Lynskey, or soldier Robert Nairac, should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, and the untraceable anonymous online form is at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.