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New search for Arlene Arkinson mile from where she was last seen

By David Young

Published 16/09/2016

Police search for Arlene's body in an area of woodland near Castlederg in 2011
Police search for Arlene's body in an area of woodland near Castlederg in 2011
Missing Arlene Arkinson
Robert Howard

Police searching for missing Arlene Arkinson are examining a new site at a field near Killen, outside Castlederg.

Arlene vanished aged 15 in August 1994 after a night out at a disco across the border in Co Donegal.

She was last seen being driven off down a country road late at night by convicted child killer Robert Howard.

The body of the teenager has never been found, despite extensive police searches over the years since she disappeared.

The field being examined by specialist police teams is about a mile from the road Howard drove her down.

Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray, the head of the PSNI's serious crime branch, said yesterday: "The family of Arlene Arkinson have been advised of this development as a precautionary measure.

"It would be premature to draw any inference from this initial report or the police response to it at this time."

Howard was acquitted of the schoolgirl's murder in 2005 by a jury that was not told about his lengthy criminal history, which included killing teenager Hannah Williams in south London several years earlier.

Earlier this year, an inquest into Arlene's death was told that while he was imprisoned in England, Howard boasted to fellow inmates in the most graphic terms about killing the schoolgirl from Co Tyrone.

The inquest also heard from retired RUC Chief Superintendent Norman Baxter, who said that Howard, the prime suspect, could have been charged with murder years earlier.

He told Belfast Coroner's Court: "She (Arlene) was a forgotten victim and that's quite a terrible thing."

Mr Baxter said he believed the Arkinson family were not seen as a priority for police between 1994 and 2002. The court also heard of the animosity that existed between some police officers and certain members of the Arkinson family, who were perceived as pests and troublemakers.

"I think the Arkinson family were seen as people who had no standing and therefore society did not bother with them and therefore she (Arlene) was not of importance and not a priority," Mr Baxter told the inquest. "I think it is a terrible case that a 15-year-old just vanishes, and after a period of statutory obligation you park it and move on."

The inquest into Arlene's death - which opened in February of this year - has been adjourned since June.

The delay is down to Coroner Brian Sherrard opening communications with An Garda Siochana, seeking testimony about the schoolgirl's disappearance from any witnesses.

The inquest is scheduled to reopen in Belfast next Monday.

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