Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Robert Howard was a police informer, Arlene Arkinson inquest hears

Published 25/02/2016

Child killer Robert Howard
Child killer Robert Howard

Child killer and rapist Robert Howard was a police informer, a coroner's court in Northern Ireland has been told.

Patricia Quinn, whose home Howard stayed in, also told an inquest for murdered schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson that when she challenged police about Howard's alleged status years later, an officer had replied, "I put my hands up".

Donna Quinn sobbed as she told a coroner's court in Belfast that she thought Robert Howard had sexually abused and then murdered Arlene
Donna Quinn sobbed as she told a coroner's court in Belfast that she thought Robert Howard had sexually abused and then murdered Arlene

She said: "He was an informer and everybody knows that", adding that she and her daughter Donna were "scapegoats for the police".

"That's why they put him in my house - to keep an eye on him and then me and Donna (Quinn) are scapegoats for the police - for the CID."

The dramatic revelation was made during the eighth day of oral evidence at the long delayed inquest in Belfast's Laganside court complex.

It was claimed that detectives had asked Ms Quinn to provide a bail address for Howard who was accused of a serious sexual attack on a teenager in 1993 - a year before Arlene Arkinson vanished.

"The CID let him into my house knowing what he was," Ms Quinn added.

"I didn't know what he was like at that time, but they knew."

Ms Quinn told the court she had not been pressurised by police but believed Howard had another girlfriend in Antrim or Armagh who may have been able to accommodate him.

She said: "It was the CID who asked me. They asked me would I let him out on bail and now I know why.

Arlene Arkinson was last seen in a car with child killer Robert Howard, her inquest has been told
Arlene Arkinson was last seen in a car with child killer Robert Howard, her inquest has been told

"When they asked me, I thought that he was all right."

An ongoing dispute over the disclosure of sensitive police documents has still not been resolved.

Coroner Brian Sherrard, who is presiding over the high profile case, has yet to rule on whether to approve a Public Interest Immunity application from the Police Service of Northern Ireland not to hand over some confidential information.

Grounds for Public Interest Immunity include matters of national security or the protection of police methodologies such as the use of informers.

While the Government has obtained such immunity on sensitive papers relating to legacy terrorist cases in Northern Ireland, doubt surrounds why such issues would be at play during an inquest into the death of a missing schoolgirl.

Fifteen-year-old Arlene, from Castlederg, vanished after a night out at a disco across the Irish border in Co Donegal in 1994.

Arlene Arkinson's sister Kathleen arrives at Belfast's Laganside court complex
Arlene Arkinson's sister Kathleen arrives at Belfast's Laganside court complex

She was last seen with Howard, who died in prison last year aged 71.

He was acquitted of Arlene's murder in 2005 by a jury which was not told of his conviction for killing a south London teenager several years earlier but he always remained the prime suspect in Arlene's case.

Ms Quinn said she deeply regretted lying to police investigating Arlene's disappearance.

"It was the biggest mistake of my life," she said. "I have regretted it since."

She also strenuously denied being in a relationship with Howard and insisted the pair were just friends.

In a statement which was read to the court, it was claimed they "kissed and cuddled" occasionally but there was no sexual contact.

She said: "I never had no relationship with him and I want that clear today."

The case continues.

Online Editors

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph