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Arlene Arkinson coroner in new powers alert to non-attending ex-top detective

Published 27/01/2016

Arlene Arkinson vanished after a night-out at a disco across the Irish border in Co Donegal in 1994
Arlene Arkinson vanished after a night-out at a disco across the Irish border in Co Donegal in 1994

A former top detective could be compelled to appear at the inquest for missing teenager Arlene Arkinson, a coroner has said.

Eric Anderson, a retired detective superintendent, may still have documents relating to the investigation into the schoolgirl's disappearance more than 20 years ago, it has been claimed.

The ex-Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer has cited ill health as a reason for non-attendance at other high-profile inquests.

The start of the Arkinson inquest has been delayed for two weeks to complete legal matters.

By February 29, coroners will have the power to compel witnesses to attend or impose fines for non-appearances.

Henry Toner QC said: "Mr Anderson I understand is not in attendance today.

"That is something which has to be nailed earlier rather than later."

Coroner Brian Sherrard, at a preliminary hearing in Belfast, said from February 29 the legislation would change giving the power to compel witnesses with threats of fines or contempt of court proceedings.

"It may be that we find ourselves in a better position as opposed to a worse position later in the month."

The coroner had demanded that Mr Anderson bring any relevant information to today's preliminary hearing.

Arlene, 15, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, vanished after a night out at a disco across the Irish border in Co Donegal in 1994.

She was last seen with convicted child killer Robert Howard, who died in prison last year.

Howard was acquitted of the teenager's murder by a jury that was unaware of his previous conviction for murdering a schoolgirl in south London.

The 71-year-old was always the police's primary suspect in Arlene's disappearance and had been set to give evidence before the inquest, now due to start on February 15.

In eight years of preliminary proceedings, a number of start dates were missed because of police delays in disclosing documents and issues around security vetting.

The inquest is being heard without a jury and could last for several months - with proceedings streamed to Omagh court house to facilitate the missing teenager's family.

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