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RUC chief Hugh Annesley can't recall order to dig Arlene Arkinson sister's garden

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

A former Chief Constable has no note or memory of authorising searches at the home of Arlene Arkinson's sister, a Coroners Court has been told.

Sir Hugh Annesley, head of the RUC between 1989 and 1996, did not keep journals and has nothing in his notebooks about meetings to discuss the high-profile case, according to a police lawyer.

Eric Anderson, a former chief superintendent who led the Arkinson investigation, claimed during a previous court hearing the controversial order had come from the top.

Kevin Rooney QC said: "Sir Hugh has said that he did not keep journals. He has checked notebooks and there is nothing in the notebooks regarding a meeting with Mr Anderson.

"He has no recollection of meeting Mr Anderson regarding Arlene Arkinson."

Fifteen-year-old Arlene, from Castlederg in Co Tyrone, vanished after a night out across the border in August 1994.

Her body has never been found.

In April 1996 police and Army swooped on the home of her sister Kathleen and proceeded to dig up her garden.

Nothing was found, but false rumours about Kathleen's involvement persisted for years.

Giving evidence last month, Mr Anderson said officers had been acting on a tip-off from a "pillar of the community".

The identity of the informant is protected by a public interest immunity certificate, but Kathleen and her former partner Stephen Walsh have challenged the ban, claiming they are entitled to know who tried to "ruin" them.

A barrister representing the Arkinson family has called for Sir Hugh to make a statement to the inquest.

Arlene was last seen with convicted child killer Robert Howard, who was acquitted of her murder in 2005 by a jury that was unaware of his conviction for killing another teenager in south London several years earlier.

Howard (71) always remained the prime suspect in the Arkinson case until his death in prison last year.

The review hearing at Laganside Court also heard there is no paper trail to support further claims from Mr Anderson that Howard was placed under 24-hour surveillance following his release from police custody weeks after the teenager vanished.

The inquest is expected to resume hearing oral evidence on Monday.

A number of police witnesses are expected to attend but Fiona Doherty QC, counsel for the coroner, said one officer was reluctant to co-operate.

She said: "He is not prepared to attend unless he is summonsed."

The court also heard that progress had been made regarding disclosure of outstanding police documents.

The hearing has been adjourned.

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