Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Arlene Arkinson family 'let down by system'

Arlene Arkinson
Arlene Arkinson

The sister of missing schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson fears she may not live to see a full inquest into the death.

Eight years after child killer Robert Howard was cleared of the 1994 murder, Kathleen Arkinson said she and her family had been failed yet again by the authorities.

She said: "The system has let me down and the family down. At times I think will I make it myself for Arlene's inquest? I have been asking for this since 2005. It would mean a bit of closure and comfort. This is just ridiculous. Arlene is pushed to the side again."

Arlene, 15, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone disappeared in August 1994 after a night out at a disco in Donegal. Her body has never been found.

At a preliminary hearing in Belfast's Old Town Hall senior Coroner John Leckey ruled out holding a full inquest this year because of a strain on resources.

Mr Leckey said: "I would not have the capacity to hold an inquest this year. I just would not have the resources."

Arkinson family barrister, Henry Toner QC said he was surprised by the revelation.

"I am slightly taken aback," he said.

Mr Toner also urged the court to set a date for the inquest as soon as possible.

"If we proceed in the way we are going it could be 2015," he added.

In 2005 Howard was acquitted of Arlene's murder but the jury was unaware he had a history of sex attacks and that two years earlier he had been found guilty of murdering Hannah Williams, 14, in south London.

An inquest into Arlene's death was ordered in 2007 but has been dogged by delays after Howard's legal team launched a legal challenge claiming it could undermine the trial verdict.

High Court Judge Mr Justice Treacy criticised the delay.

Meanwhile, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, acting on new information, carried out searches of Howard's former flat at Main Street, Castlederg last year.

Mark Robinson, barrister for the PSNI told the hearing officers had removed 800 forensic exhibits from the flat and were awaiting results. A derelict farm in Strabane was also excavated but tests had proved negative. There have been no searches carried out south of the border.

Mr Robinson said: "This is not a matter that has gone to sleep. This is a matter that has been proactively chased down. The police are doing everything they can."

More than 3,000 documents and 793 statements have been prepared by the PSNI for an inquest and are expected to be disclosed to the legal services next week.

Another preliminary hearing has been scheduled for March 8.

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