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Local divers instrumental in finding body after 30 years

16 September 2020

A local diver from Jerrettspass led a recent search for the vehicle of a man who went missing more than 30 years ago.

The team from Rockcorry Divers - a Monaghan based Technical Deep Diving Sub Aqua Club, headed by local diver, Peter McCamley - were instrumental in finding the body of a James Patterson who disappeared on October 6, 1991.

On July 18, following a meeting between Community Rescue Services, North Coast Search and Rescue and members of Rockcorry Divers, a search for a vehicle was undertaken.

Using the latest technology in Side Scan Sonar, Community Rescue Services advised that they believed that they had located what seemed to be a vehicle in the River Bann at New Ferry Road, Bellaghy and needed a dive team that was capable of working safely in zero visibility in fast-flowing conditions, to ascertain the make and model of the vehicle.

Peter arrived with technical divers, Gerry Brown from Newry and Colin Brenan from Dundalk to dive at the site location to obtain the relevant required information.


Difficult to identify


According to Peter, it was initially difficult to identify the vehicle on the morning of the dive.

“Conditions were favourable on the morning of the dive and following instructions, the dive team submerged in the River Bann for a total time of approximately 30 minutes, whereupon they returned to the surface confirming that the current in the river was quite strong and that due to the sediment in the river it was making vehicle identification virtually impossible,” he said.

“After a break, the divers returned to the water and using high powered LED photographic lights, all three divers agreed on the make, model and colour of the vehicle they had just dived upon.”

The vehicle that they had dived upon was a blue Ford Orion.

“Upon receiving this information Sean Carry advised that this was the make, colour and model of the vehicle of the car that James Patterson owned at the time of his disappearance almost 30 years ago,” Peter explained.

“The police were notified and shortly thereafter, the area was immediately cordoned off.” 

The vehicle was recovered from the water the next day, on July 19, and on August 11, it was confirmed using forensic DNA technology that there was a body within the vehicle and it was confirmed that the human remains were that of James Patterson.

A PSNI statement confirmed that his death is not being treated as suspicious:

“Police can confirm human remains were found following the recovery of a car from the River Bann at the New Ferry Road in Bellaghy last month,” said a police spokesperson.

“The vehicle was recovered from the river in July and following examination, it has been confirmed the human remains are those of James Patterson who went missing on 6th October 1991.

“The family have been informed and request for privacy at this time.”

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