A mystery donor has offered a reward worth €55,000 for information that could help locate the remains of three people who went missing during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Columba McVeigh, Joe Lynskey and Robert Nairac were among 16 people classified as Disappeared who were believed to have been killed and secretly buried by republicans in the 1970s and 1980s, and are the only three yet to be found.

UK crime charity Crimestoppers said the reward had been offered in US Dollars - $60,000 (€55,000) - and had been offered by an anonymous donor, amounting to $20,000 (€18,333) for the recovery of each body.

"Our reward is not about finding out what happened to these people," said Fiona McCormack, director of operations for the charity.

"The families of those who have yet to be found deserve to be able to hold a long-overdue funeral for their relatives."

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR), which has worked to locate the bodies of the Disappeared, said it hoped the reward could help "close a chapter of a terrible story in the lives of families who have suffered decades of torment not knowing where their loved ones were buried".

Columba McVeigh disappeared in 1975

"Whether or not it helps bring forward information that we haven't had to date and which results in the location and recovery of the remains we'll have to wait to see," said Geoff Knupfer, lead investigator for the ICLVR.

"If it does it will be a hugely significant breakthrough.

"We should never lose sight of the fact that the whole issue of the Disappeared is fundamentally a humanitarian one.

"There are three families who have suffered so much and are still waiting for their loved ones to be brought home for Christian burial."

Mr McVeigh, from Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, was abducted, shot and secretly buried by the IRA in November 1975.

Republicans with knowledge of the crime have told the commission, in confidence, that the 19-year-old was buried across the border in Bragan bog near Emyvale, but searches in the bog have not uncovered his remains.

Mr Lynskey, a former Cistercian monk,  was kidnapped in west Belfast in August 1972, while British soldier Captain Nairac was taken in south Armagh and killed by the IRA in 1977.