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Killer's old flat is searched in trawl for Arlene Arkinson clues

By Deborah McAleese

Published 18/09/2012

Convicted killer Robert Howard
Convicted killer Robert Howard
Arlene Arkinson
Missing: August 14 1994
Age when reported missing: 15
Arlene Arkinson left her home in Castlederg in August 1994 to travel to a disco over the border in Bundoran and has not been seen by her family since. She is believed to have been abducted and murdered. Robert Howard was acquitted of her murder in 2005. The jury was not told that he was a convicted killer.

Police searches were yesterday carried out at the former flat of a child killer suspected of murdering missing schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson almost two decades ago.

Forensic experts in protective clothing entered the property in the centre of Castlederg, Co Tyrone, where killer and rapist Robert Howard lived at the time 15-year-old Arlene disappeared.

The derelict flat in Main Street had previously been searched by investigation teams. However, the new search was launched after serious crime branch detectives received fresh information relating to the teenager’s disappearance in August 1994.

The PSNI said that officers were not looking for human remains within the property.

Other searches were being carried out along a stretch of countryside between Castlederg and Clady by a small police team assisted by dog handlers and body recovery dogs.

Last month Arlene’s family hit out at police after they discovered that planned searches for her remains had been postponed to police the Olympic torch relay, the Irish Open and demonstrations during the marching season.

Yesterday the PSNI said that the current searches will be conducted on a planned roll-out, depending on weather conditions, availability of resources and operational commitments.

A spokesman from the investigation vowed that officers “maintain an absolute commitment to working to resolve their unbearable situation despite the complexities and time span of the investigation”.

Arlene vanished on her way home from a disco in Bundoran, Co Donegal, in August 1994.

She had been seen with Robert Howard, who was acquitted of her murder in 2005 when he was 61. He is currently serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of schoolgirl Hannah Williams (14) from south London.

A spokesman for the PSNI said that the investigation into Arlene’s disappearance remains “active and ongoing”.

“Some new information has been received. Detectives have made enquiries over the last few months to examine this information and this had led to an expansion of the existing search plan.

“Police still believe that there may be more information in the community and we would appeal for anyone with any information to come forward,” he added.

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