Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

More hold-ups to Arlene inquest

Arlene Arkinson disappeared aged 15 in 1994 after a night out at a disco in Donegal

Preparations for the inquest into the murder of missing schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson have suffered a fresh hold-up.

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

Although a coroner's inquiry is still due to begin next April, lawyers acting for convicted child killer Robert Howard have asked that some decisions surrounding preliminary legal matters be deferred.

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.

Arkinson family barrister Henry Toner QC told the Belfast coroner's court it was unfortunate solicitors for Howard had waited until Thursday to make their request.

"What I would be most concerned about is that Madden and Finucane acting for Mr Howard are in any way permitted to dictate the timescale that we have worked very hard and other parties have worked very hard to establish," he said. "What they in effect seek is that many of the issues we have to discuss be left over until they are ready."

Senior coroner John Leckey is arranging for Howard to give evidence via video link from Frankland Prison in Co Durham.

Barrister for the coroner Fiona Doherty said Madden and Finucane wanted to make submissions on some of the matters on the agenda so requested that, until they have had an opportunity, senior coroner John Leckey defers taking decisions.

Issues planned to be addressed on Friday surrounded the disclosure of documents to legal parties. Mr Leckey said he had written to the governor at Frankland Prison asking that a video link be arranged so Howard can give evidence as a witness but received no response.

Another date for a preliminary hearing has been set for later this year.

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