Belfast Telegraph

Killer loses bid to halt inquest into death of teenager

A convicted child killer and rapist has lost his legal challenge to the holding of an inquest into the death of another schoolgirl he was acquitted of murdering.

Robert Howard was seeking a judicial review of the senior coroner's decision to examine events surrounding the disappearance of Arlene Arkinson in 1994.

His legal team claimed the move involves an attempt to undermine the not guilty verdict returned against him.

They argued that the inquest is being used as a way of reopening issues surrounding the case because the Arkinson family were unhappy with the outcome of the criminal trial.

A High Court judge confirmed that he has dismissed Howard's application for judicial review.

Mr Justice Treacy said he will issue a judgment setting out the reasons for his decision on Wednesday.

Arlene, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, was aged 15 when she vanished after attending a disco in Bundoran, Co Donegal.

Her body has never been found, but she is believed to have been killed.

Howard (67), who formerly lived near her home, was charged with her murder but acquitted in 2005. The jury did not know that, by then, he was already serving life for raping and killing 14-year-old Hanna Williams from Deptford, south London.

No confirmation was given on whether or not Howard would cooperate with any inquest.

Counsel for the coroner contended that the test of necessity in holding an inquest had been met.

The court also heard that issues about the admissibility of bad character evidence would play a significant part in the case.

With the coroner said to be satisfied that Arlene is dead, it was set out that his obligation was to probe all the circumstances.

The Arkinson family said they were delighted with the decision.

Arlene’s sister Kathleen said: “We now hope Howard will be brought over to answer questions and if he refuses he’ll be in contempt.

“We’re hoping we’ll finally get some answers, but it’s been great news today.”

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