Belfast Telegraph

Former detective in missing girl hunt defends raid on sister's home

The police decision to search the home of Arlene Arkinson's sister was prompted by hearsay involving an overheard conversation, a retired detective has said.

The identity of the source who passed on the information was not known to police but seemed honest and sincere, former detective chief superintendent Brian McVicker added.

Police were aware of an allegation that teenager Arlene was having a relationship with her sister Kathleen's then partner.

The Co Tyrone schoolgirl disappeared in 1994 as she returned to her Castlederg home from a disco in Co Donegal.

Mr McVicker defended the police raid during which officers dug up Kathleen Arkinson's garden. Nothing was found.

He said: "This was a person who had overheard a conversation, they did not give us details of who they heard it from.

"It was a conversation that appeared to be quite close to the family but I don't know the names of anybody who the source talked to at that time."

He said the person was afraid of being identified but said they came forward to help the police in a way that did not happen very often in that area.

The informant was made known to police through a conduit who vouched for them.

Mr McVicker said: "I was prepared to give the source a bit of leeway."

He added: "From the demeanour of the person, from my conversation with the conduit, I believed that the person was genuine and honest, sincere in wanting to help us finding Arlene's body."

It tied in with other information available to police.

RUC officers knew of an allegation that 15-year-old Arlene was having a relationship with her sister's partner.

Police swooped on the home of Kathleen Arkinson twice, once in April 1996 and once ahead of the 2003 trial of chief suspect Robert Howard for murdering London schoolgirl Hannah Williams.

The first time they dug up her garden. Kathleen Arkinson has previously told the inquest officers came in with sledgehammers and opened up the whole house.

Mr McVicker defended the decision to search in 1996.

"I still believe it was the right course of action."

He said the police action ascertained whether the information was correct, removed the "cloud of suspicion" from the Arkinson family and "put the spotlight" back on Howard as the main suspect.

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