Arlene Arkinson family 'torture' over legal challenge
The man widely believed to have killed schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson has been accused of "torturing" her family after he won the right to challenge the holding of an inquest into her death.
Convicted child killer and rapist Robert Howard was yesterday granted leave by the High Court in Belfast to seek a judicial review of the senior coroner's decision to examine events surrounding the disappearance of the 15-year-old in 1994.
The 67-year-old's legal team argue the inquest is being used as a way of reopening the case because the family were dissatisfied with the outcome of the 2005 criminal trial in which Howard was acquitted of murder.
However, the teenager's family who have vowed to "fight tooth and nail" for an inquest and have accused Howard of yet again "twisting the knife" on their grief.
"I think it is totally and utterly wrong," Arlene's older sister Kathleen (below) told the Belfast Telegraph. I cannot understand it. He was the last person with Arlene and I think he should be put into that box to tell us what he did with her.
"I want the inquest to go ahead. He's the only person who knows where Arlene is. It's just so horrible.
"He has ruined our whole family and wrecked so many people's lives. I do not believe he is a human being - I truly believe he is the Devil's son. This is just more torture for us, but he will not beat us. He will attend an inquest - I'll make sure of it."
Arlene, from Castlederg in Co Tyrone, vanished after attending a disco in Bundoran, Co Donegal. Her body has never been found, but she is believed to have been murdered.
Howard, who formerly lived near the Arkinson family home, was charged with her murder but acquitted at trial in 2005.
The jury did not know that by then he was already serving life for raping and killing 14-year-old Hanna Williams, from Deptford, south London.
Howard's legal team claim the move to hold an inquest involves an attempt to undermine the not guilty verdict returned against him. The lawyers, who unsuccessfully tried to have reporting restrictions imposed on their application, pointed out that the coroner's stated purpose was to allow Arlene's death to be registered.
It was argued that this could be achieved through an alternative High Court procedure with the Presumption of Death Act 2009 coming into effect.
Arlene's family described the legal challenge as a waste of taxpayers' money and questioned why Howard was so determined to stop the inquest going ahead.
Her brother Martin said: "If a man has nothing to hide why do this. If I had nothing to hide I would do whatever I could to prove my innocence; I would go through it all to clear my name."
The judge hearing the case for a judicial review, Mr Justice Treacy, ruled it should proceed to a full hearing. A one-day hearing of the issues in the High Court was listed for November.
Fifteen-year-old schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson, from Castlederg, went missing after attending a disco in Co Donegal. She was last seen in a car with Robert Lesarian Howard (67) during the early hours of August 14, 1994. In 2005 Howard, who lived near the Arkinsons, stood trial for murder but was acquitted. The jury were not made aware he had been serving life for raping and killing 14-year-old Hanna Williams in London whose body was found in 2002.