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Agonising wait for family that can scarcely dare to hope they will at last see missing Arlene returned to them

Editor's Viewpoint

The Arkinson family have suffered so many false dawns in the search for their sister Arlene, who disappeared 22 years ago, that they dare not hope that the latest potential lead will finally be the one that sees her body recovered.

It is impossible for anyone outside the family to understand the anguish they have endured in the last two decades. Time and time again their hopes were raised as police investigated yet another tip-off - and every time those hopes were dashed.

Without the recovery of a body the fate of Arlene could never be conclusively determined.

Of course there were suspicions that she had been murdered.

There was even a prime suspect in the case but that man, Robert Howard, is now dead and he never admitted that he was responsible for Arlene's disappearance.

The latest search is quite close to where Arlene was last seen in a car driven by Howard.

That, and the seriousness with which police are taking the tip-off from a local farmer about a shallow grave being discovered on his land, again raises the hopes of the family that perhaps this time the truth may emerge.

Hopefully this lead will prove fruitful.

The family know that they will never get total justice.

They are convinced that Howard was the killer and he is now beyond the reach of any earthly judge, although, for believers, he has already met the final judge.

But if Arlene's body is found - and at this stage that is just a possibility - it will allow a family that has grieved too long to gain some closure. They will have remains to bury and a grave to visit, and that will be some consolation.

It may also allow them to find out how Arlene died although that cannot be guaranteed. The main wish must be that this is where Arlene's body lies.

There is just so much heartbreak any family can endure - and the Arkinson family certainly has reached that limit.

Belfast Telegraph

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