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Policeman's testimony at inquest too much for sister of murdered Arlene

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 16/03/2016

Arlene Arkinson's sister Kathleen walked out on the inquest visibly upset
Arlene Arkinson's sister Kathleen walked out on the inquest visibly upset

A distraught sister of missing teenager Arlene Arkinson has walked out of an inquest as police defended their handling of the case.

Kathleen Arkinson sobbed as a former senior detective, who was part of a team that searched her home and dug up her garden, gave evidence to Belfast Coroner’s Court.

Paul Bennett, a retired PSNI detective constable, described chaotic scenes as police and Army acting on an anonymous tip-off arrived at Ms Arkinson’s home in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, in April 1996 — two years after the schoolgirl went missing.

Ms Arkinson became hysterical, the court was told.

“She was abusive and was shouting, she was not opening the door. She threw a vase and other items towards myself and other officers,” according to a statement made by the officer in July 1996 which was read to the court.

“She was roaring and shouting. She had a knife and said she would stick it through the first person through the door,” it was claimed.

When uniformed officers did gain entry, Ms Arkinson, whose crying children were also standing in the hallway, was handcuffed and taken into the living room. Nothing was found during the search of the property at Drumnabey Park, or in a second search which used radar equipment in 2002.

Throughout the officer’s testimony Ms Arkinson shook her head and at one point had to be comforted by her solicitor. She left the courtroom visibly upset.

Mr Bennett said officers had been working to unravel the truth about Arlene’s disappearance and could not believe “everybody and everything”.

Meanwhile, details of an interview with Robert Howard — the prime suspect in the Arkinson case — were also given to the court. Mr Bennett, who conducted the interview in September 1994, said the convicted child killer was evasive, reluctant to answer and did not like to make eye contact.

Fifteen-year-old Arlene (left) vanished after a night out at a disco across the border in Co Donegal on August 13, 1994.

She was last seen being driven away down a country road late at night with Howard, who was later acquitted of her murder.

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