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Child killer Robert Howard 'was like the Pied Piper'

Children flocked to his flat on the weekends, ex-nurse tells inquest

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 04/03/2016

Howard died in jail last year
Howard died in jail last year
Arlene Arkinson

Child killer Robert Howard was likened to the Pied Piper at the Arlene Arkinson inquest yesterday.

Heather Moore, a former nurse, described how children, including Arlene, visited his flat in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, at weekends.

She told Belfast coroner's court: "There were so many of them. He was like the Pied Piper on a Saturday. It must have been the place to go for the young ones."

The inquest is investigating the disappearance of 15-year-old Arlene, who vanished after a night out at a disco in Co Donegal on August 13, 1994. Her body has never been found.

Howard was acquitted of her murder in 2005 by a jury which was not told of his conviction for killing a south London teenager several years earlier. The 71-year-old remained the prime suspect until his death in jail last year.

Ms Moore worked in Castlederg, Arlene's hometown, for more than 25 years and lived next door to Howard but was unaware of his violent past. She told the court he bought children sweets, let them ride his motorbike and took them out in his blue Metro car. "He was good to them in many ways," added Ms Moore.

She also claimed that Patricia Quinn, who previously denied being a girlfriend of Howard, visited his flat on an almost daily basis and said: "I never saw many adults, only Pat. It was obvious (they were together). She would have been there early in the morning, knocking to get in. I would have thought the youngsters would have been put to school and she would have come down."

On one occasion, it was claimed a blazing row erupted when Ms Quinn found her daughter, Donna, skipping school at the flat. Ms Moore recalled seeing the girl being frogmarched from the property by her shouting mother.

"It was a big row," she added.

Ms Moore also claimed to have seen Donna Quinn at the flat a day after Arlene went missing. When asked about the reliability of her recollection, she replied: "There could be some doubt because all the young ones look similar."

In her evidence, Ms Quinn claimed to have been at Altnagelvin Hospital at the time.

Later, the inquest heard evidence from a close friend and cousin of Arlene Arkinson.

Lynette Edgar recalled being in Howard's flat a number of times with friends and said they played hide and seek. But she was also wary of Howard and warned Arlene to be on her guard.

"I warned her to be careful as I thought he was a little strange," she said. "She also told me that she was warned to be careful of him by family members."

Ms Edgar also dismissed claims Arlene may have been pregnant as unfounded rumours.

"I never believed that Arlene was pregnant," she said. "You said something to see who we could trust. If you said something and then heard it back, then you couldn't trust that person.

Meanwhile, Henry Toner QC, barrister for the Arkinson family, called for outstanding police papers to be handed over. The lawyer described it as extraordinary that the documentation, which includes analysis of police actions between 1994 and 1998, had not been given up.

Adjourning the case until next week, Coroner Brian Sherrard said he would "encourage" the disclosure of the missing items.

Belfast Telegraph

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