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Murder victim's family 'let down by authorities'

The sister of a schoolgirl believed to have been murdered and secretly buried by a notorious child killing rapist says her family feel let down by the authorities.

Kathleen Arkinson has accused the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) of stalling inquest proceedings for her younger sibling Arlene Arkinson who vanished in 1994.

In a stinging attack after chief murder suspect Robert Howard died in prison on Friday, Ms Arkinson said: "I am 100% critical of the police.

"They have held back and held back for 21 years.

"They have waited so long until he died. I am so angry, we are all angry."

Arlene Arkinson, 15, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone went missing after a night out at a disco across the Irish border in Co Donegal in August 1994. She was last seen with Howard.

Eleven years later, he was acquitted of her murder but the trial jury was unaware of his history of sex attacks and his conviction for strangling south London teenager Hannah Williams in 2001.

In the eight years since the preliminary inquest process began, a number of fixed hearing dates have been scrapped due to delays in disclosing papers.

Most recently, a September start date was postponed until November at which Howard, 71, and serving a life sentence at HMP Frankland in Co Durham was due to give evidence.

Ms Arkinson added: "I knew he was sick but I didn't realise he was dying.

"I wanted him to be alive to take the stand at the inquest.

"But, we still want the papers from the police. We want answers.

"It has been 21 years -- we could have three death certificates for Arlene.

"But, it looks like Howard will get his before her."

Meanwhile, Ms Arkinson has vowed her quest for justice would continue and has called for fresh searches to locate her body.

"People say we will never find her body now but, we will never give up."

Another preliminary hearing is due to take place this week.

Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty has called for the PSNI to release all documents relating to the Arkinson case.

Mr Doherty said: " The Arkinson family deserve answers about what happened to Arlene and help in recovering her remains.

"The inquest needs to proceed as soon as possible so the Arkinson family can get access to the truth of what happened to their sister."

In a statement the PSNI expressed regret at the delay and said work was ongoing to complete the disclosure process.

"On behalf of the coroner, PSNI disclosed material to the family in 2013 as part of the inquest process. However, earlier this year, the coroner then directed that PSNI review proposed redactions within some of the material. Work has been ongoing in relation to this and is expected to be completed soon.

"PSNI regret the delay the review has caused and the additional pain that this causes to the Arkinson family.

"PSNI remain committed to working with the family and the coroner in order to ensure this inquest proceeds as expeditiously as possible."

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