Belfast Telegraph

Arkinson family demands answers over bodies found in Co Sligo grave

By Donna Deeney

Police in the Republic are facing mounting pressure to provide more details about an exhumation in Co Sligo carried out as part of the search for the remains of Arlene Arkinson.

Yesterday the family of the 15-year-old Co Tyrone girl marked 24 years since she was last seen alive after a night out in Bundoran, Co Donegal, in August 1994.

The Castlederg teenager's disappearance is being investigated as murder, widely accepted to have been committed by child killer Robert Howard.

Howard, who died at the age of 71 in 2016, was convicted in 2003 of the rape and murder two years earlier of London teenager Hannah Williams.

In 2005 Howard was found not guilty of murdering Arlene in 1994. The jury was unaware that he was already serving life for Hannah's killing.

Earlier this year the family had hopes of a breakthrough dashed when a body exhumed in Sligo was revealed to be that of a male.

Now her sister Kathleen is seeking more information from the Garda, as is the PSNI after coroner Brian Sherrard raised questions about the number of bodies in the grave.

Kathleen said: "We are now in our 11th year of an inquest which is nearing its conclusion. We recently were hopeful that Arlene's body would be recovered, but An Garda Siochana cast doubt on our hope. We now understand that a larger number of bodies than expected were buried in a grave in Co Sligo from which gardai exhumed one. We would like the Garda to please confirm the exact number of bodies... and if they were all examined.

"Before the inquest resumes in September, we would like An Garda Siochana to explain what provoked the exhumation.

"We request that An Garda Siochana co-operate with Arlene's inquest and the lawyers acting for the coroner in order ultimately to assist us and allay the suspicion and rumour we are dealing with on a daily basis in relation to Arlene's remains."

West Tyrone Sinn Fein MP Orfhlaith Begley echoed this call.

She said: "There are still many unanswered questions over the Sligo exhumation and the family are calling on the Garda to provide that information to the coroner and the PSNI.

"Garda have confirmed that there were more bodies in the plot than expected but have not said whether these have also been examined.

"Arlene's inquest is ongoing and the coroner has also requested further clarification from the authorities in the South.

"That needs to happen, and there needs to be an end to the failures we have seen from An Garda Siochana in the past when they did not produce documents or nominate witnesses.

"The Arkinson family have waited too long for the truth."

The Garda was contacted for a response but hadn't replied at the time of going to press.

Belfast Telegraph

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