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Arlene Arkinson inquest witness threatens to 'do myself in'

Published 29/02/2016

Arlene Arkinson vanished after a night out at a disco in 1994
Arlene Arkinson vanished after a night out at a disco in 1994

A woman who lied to police investigating the disappearance of Arlene Arkinson has claimed the pressures of the case have made her contemplate suicide.

In an angry outburst, Patricia Quinn - a friend of child killer Robert Howard - said her life has been unbearable since the Co Tyrone schoolgirl vanished in August 1994.

She told Belfast Coroner's Court: "I am fed up with this life. When I go home tonight, you'll never hear tell of me again. I am going to do myself in.

"Twenty one years of this life. The Arkinsons have tried to smother me, petrol bomb me. What did the police do? Nothing."

Ms Quinn, who denies being Howard's partner, was giving evidence at the long delayed inquest for a second day.

However, proceedings were dramatically halted when she made the claim after just 10 minutes in the witness box during cross examination by the Arkinson family barrister.

"The last 20 years I have been hassled, battered, kicked," she added. "Nobody has done anything about it. Why shouldn't I be angry?

"I would love the cutty (Arlene) to be found. Everybody deserves a decent burial."

Fifteen-year-old Arlene, from Castlederg, vanished after a night out at a disco across the Irish border in Co Donegal on August 13, 1994.

She was last seen with Howard - who was acquitted of her murder in 2005 by a jury which was unaware of his conviction for killing a south London teenager several years earlier.

He remained the prime suspect in the Arkinson case until his death in prison last year, aged 71.

The court heard that Howard had lived with Ms Quinn and her three children in Castlederg but retained his own flat in the centre of the town.

She had provided a bail address when Howard was charged with drugging, raping and imprisoning another teenage girl in 1993 - a year before Arlene vanished.

Last week Ms Quinn, whose daughter Donna Quinn was a close friend of the missing schoolgirl, alleged he had been a police informer. She again questioned police actions in the case.

She said: "Why did the police not arrest him until the end of September? That's nearly 46 days after Arlene disappeared.

"Why did they keep him on their books and not arrest him?"

Judge Sherrard interjected, saying the inquest would be hearing from police, to which Ms Quinn replied: " I hope you do and I hope they tell the truth too."

Following a short adjournment, Ms Quinn was deemed unfit to continue giving evidence and was invited back at a later date.

Judge Brian Sherrard advised that she seek medical help.

"I have some concerns about your welfare," the coroner said. "I appreciate this is stressful but it is also important that we hear what you have to say.

"I am going to allow you to go home and invite you back on a different day.

"Because of the comments that you made, I would advise you to go and speak to your GP."

Ms Quinn said she would visit the doctor on Tuesday.

Her eldest son Mark was also called to give evidence to the inquest.

He described Howard as his mother's "boyfriend" and agreed with a lawyer's assertion that she had probably been "infatuated" with him.

Mr Quinn said: "He was good to her."

Despite not knowing about Howard's lengthy criminal history, Mr Quinn could not warm to him, the court heard. But, when issued with an ultimatum after Howard moved into the property in 1993, he conceded there was nowhere else to go.

"I never like to be in the same room as him. I never liked the man," said Mr Quinn.

"I did say get rid of that boy. She said 'if you don't like it you know what you can do'."

Under questioning from a barrister for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Mr Quinn, now aged 42, denied suggestions Howard was deliberately placed in their home by the police.

"I don't buy that," he said.

Later, the court was told that special measures should not be put in place to facilitate a former senior detective.

Henry Toner QC, representing the Arkinson family, said he was alerted by media reports that a retired detective superintendent may give his evidence via Skype.

"We are not convinced Mr (Eric) Anderson should be handed any special measures," he said.

"Skype would not be acceptable to us."

Mr Anderson has previously cited ill-health for non attendance at other high profile inquests.

Judge Sherrard said he had received four medical reports relating to the officer and the matter would be discussed at a later date.

Meanwhile, it is also anticipated that four outstanding issues around the disclosure of sensitive police documents could soon be resolved.

A third hearing behind closed doors has been scheduled to take place on Tuesday to try to progress the Public Interest Immunity (PII) application.

The case has been adjourned.

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