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Ex-RUC detective ordered to appear at Arlene inquest

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 14/01/2016

Retired: Eric Anderson
Retired: Eric Anderson

A "belt and braces" approach is being adopted to ensure a retired detective appears at an inquest for missing Arlene Arkinson, a Coroner's Court has heard.

Eric Anderson may still have documents relating to the investigation into the schoolgirl's disappearance more than 20 years ago, it was claimed.

Coroner Brian Sherrard told a preliminary hearing at Laganside court complex yesterday: "There has been a suggestion that he may hold papers. They may be the same as we have, or he may no longer have papers."

While Mr Anderson has cited ill health for non-attendance at other high-profile inquests, the coroner demanded that he bring any relevant information to a hearing later this month.

"This is a belt and braces approach," Mr Sherrard said. "I assume Mr Anderson will co-operate, but as a precaution he will be formally summonsed."

Arlene, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, vanished aged 15 after a night out at a disco in Co Donegal in 1994. She was last seen with child killer Robert Howard, who died in prison aged 71 last year. Howard was acquitted of the murder by a jury unaware of his previous conviction for murdering a girl. He was set to give evidence at the inquest for Arlene, which is due to start on February 1.

In eight years of preliminary proceedings, a number of start dates were missed because of police delays in disclosing documents. Some of these will be handed over next week, a barrister for the PSNI told the hearing.

Afterwards, Arlene's sister Kathleen said she hoped Mr Anderson would say sorry for the handling of the case. "I can't wait to see him in court," she added. "He owes my family an apology."

Arlene's sister also appealed for anyone who may have information to come forward, saying: "No matter how small they think it is, it could be significant to us."

The inquest is being heard without a jury and could last several months, with proceedings streamed to Omagh Courthouse for the Arkinson family.

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