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I hope Arlene's cold and hungry, callous killer Howard told teen's friends after her disappearance

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 24/02/2016

Arlene Arkinson
Arlene Arkinson

The last man to see Arlene Arkinson alive said he hoped the schoolgirl was "cold and hungry" two weeks after she went missing, a coroners court has been told.

Convicted child killer Robert Howard made the callous remark as he drove two other teenage girls to a disco in August 1994.

In a statement read to Belfast Coroners Court, Arlene's friend, Donna Quinn, said: "We thought that she had just gone away somewhere. He (Howard) said: 'I hope that she is cold and hungry wherever she is, for the bother she has caused us.'"

Arlene, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, vanished aged 15 after a disco across the Irish border in Bundoran, Co Donegal. She was last seen with the child killer, who died in prison last year aged 71.

Howard was acquitted of her murder in 2005 by a jury unaware of his conviction for killing a 14-year-old in Kent. But he always remained the prime suspect. Ms Quinn told how before Howard made the comments, she had invited her then boyfriend Patrick John Heggarty, Arlene and Howard, who was dating her mother, for the night out in Bundoran.

All four travelled together in Howard's car and on the return journey, an intoxicated Ms Quinn and Mr Heggarty were dropped off first. Despite being aware that Howard was on bail for an alleged sex attack and that he had expressed an interest in one of her friends, Ms Quinn was not concerned about Arlene's safety when she was driven off alone.

"Arlene wouldn't have looked at him any way," she said.

Under cross-examination from Frank O'Donoghue, barrister for the Coroners Service, she also admitted that after the teen's disappearance, Howard warned her not to say that Arlene had been in their company. When asked why Howard had made the request, Ms Quinn replied: "He said he did not like the Arkinsons and because he was out on bail or something."

It also emerged that Howard never again worn the white shirt and black trousers he had on the night Arlene disappeared.

Mr O'Donoghue asked: "Bob Howard was not a wealthy man, but you never saw those clothes, that white shirt or black trousers? It never crossed your mind to ask what happened to them?"

Ms Quinn replied: "It didn't actually, no." There were emotional scenes as Ms Quinn and her mother, Patricia, entered the courtroom.

At one point, Ms Quinn Snr shouted as Arlene's sister, Kathleen, took her seat on the opposite side of the courtroom.

Donna Quinn then broke into tears as she sat in the public gallery waiting to take her place in the witness stand.

Earlier, Patrick John Heggarty, also known as Sean Heggarty, told the court he was still haunted by the case.

When asked by a lawyer for the PSNI if he had any idea where Arlene was buried, he replied: "Absolutely not."

Mr Heggarty added: "I wonder about Arlene every day. What happened from a normal night to turn into this. Unbelievable.

"I can safely say I could see no difference that particular night than any other night that I have been out. I can't understand."

The case has been adjourned.

Belfast Telegraph

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