Belfast Telegraph

Arlene probe not haphazard, ex-cop insists at inquest

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

A retired police officer has rejected suggestions that the investigation into the disappearance of schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson was haphazard.

Neil Graham, a former detective inspector, was unable to explain the delay in arresting child killer Robert Howard, who was the last person to see the teenager alive in August 1994.

But he told an inquest in Belfast that all elements in the high-profile case would have been carefully considered by a senior team.

He said: "I unfortunately am not in a position to give a reason why there was such a delay. I would love to give a reason."

The detective was among the first CID officers to hear that 15-year-old Arlene had gone missing. A twin-track investigation was launched to determine whether she had run away, or whether something more sinister had happened, the court heard.

Mr Graham said: "In the absence of any clear evidence where Arlene was, the best activity that the police could do was to carry out a significant number of searches, all based on information received on the last known movements of people concerned."

Ivor McAteer, for the Arkinson family, asked if it was a case where "the right hand did not know what the left hand was doing".

The former officer replied: "No, it was not, no."

The court heard searches in forests, bogland and country roads in the Castlederg area and across the border in Co Donegal during September and October 1994 had been fruitless.

Although searches were carried out at Robert Howard's flat on Main Street, Castlederg, the paedophile sold his car a day before being arrested on September 28, 1994, it emerged.

Mr McAteer added: "We know he had a flat, we know he had a car, we know that Arlene was last seen in the car, we know that there were lies by witnesses who have seen her. We knew he had been crossing borders in breach of bail. At no time anybody thought 'we'll have him' prior to September 28. Is anything I say inaccurate?"

The ex-policeman said: "No."

Arlene, from Castlederg, vanished after a night out at a disco in Co Donegal on August 13, 1994.

She was last seen being driven down a country road late at night with Howard.

Although acquitted of her murder in 2005 by a jury - unaware of his conviction for killing London teenager Hannah Williams - he was the prime suspect until dying in prison last year, aged 71.

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