Family hopeful as searches for Tyrone teenager restart
The sister of missing Tyrone teenager Arlene Arkinson has spoken of the family's hopes of a breakthrough as the first in a series of new searches begins today.
Kathleen Arkinson revealed how her youngest sister - believed to have been murdered by convicted killer and child abuser Robert Lesarian Howard one night in 1995 - was terrified of the dark.
Today's searches will mark what would have been the 70th birthday of Arlene's father William.
The father-of-seven died in November 2008.
His family said he died with a broken heart because he never got the chance to bury his youngest daughter.
Kathleen said that police are now planning a long-term operation involving around 40 searches in two-week sessions across various locations.
She said her siblings were coming back from Scotland and England this week for the start of the searches.
"This is the first search without the old boy. He never stopped looking for her.
"He would have sat in his car going all over the place, all different roads, even looking in hedges for any sign, and now I'm doing the same.
"This time I feel different. I don't know what will happen but I don't think I will be sleeping tonight.
"The searches will go on for two weeks at a time as the dogs will need to stop for a day or two to rest.
"I told the police that if, God forbid, anybody else went missing, we would understand if the dogs had to go there, but the police said that unless it was something very bad they should be here."
Describing Howard as "not human, an animal", Kathleen added: "Arlene was the youngest girl.
"She was afraid of the dark, wile afraid of the dark.
"If she went across the street to my brother's house she would be saying to me, 'don't close the door until I get in the door'."
Arlene Arkinson was just 15 when she vanished near her home in Castlederg after attending a disco in Bundoran, Co Donegal, in the early hours of August 14, 1994. She was last seen in a car being driven by Howard, who previously had an address in Castlederg.
Extensive searches have been carried out but no firm evidence of Arlene still being alive was ever found. Howard (67) was acquitted of Arlene's murder in 2005, and it only emerged after the trial that he was a convicted killer, child abuser and rapist.