Belfast Telegraph

Friend 'knew in her heart' Howard had murdered Arlene

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Convicted child killer Robert Howard was seen near a forest carrying a spade after schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson disappeared.

During a dramatic day of evidence at the teenager's inquest in Belfast, it was claimed police had been tipped off by an unnamed informant.

A partially blanked-out intelligence document read to the court claimed Howard and his then partner Patricia Quinn told a taxi driver they were going fishing.

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

She was last seen with convicted killer Howard, who died in prison last year aged 71.

He was acquitted of Arlene's murder in 2005 by a jury that was not told of his conviction for killing a south London teenager several years earlier.

The intelligence document is among a number of redacted files at the centre of an ongoing disclosure dispute. Coroner Brian Sherrard, who is presiding over the case, has yet to rule on whether to approve a PSNI application not to hand over some sensitive information to the inquest.

Other intelligence material suggests Howard and Patricia Quinn were overheard talking about going to Pettigo in Co Donegal at night-time. And yet another redacted police report alleges that Patricia Quinn and her daughter Donna Quinn knew Arlene was buried in bogland near Pettigo.

The allegation was strenuously denied by Donna Quinn. "Who said that?" she asked. "I don't know, I swear on my child's life I do not know."

Ms Quinn, a lifelong friend of Arlene, was among the last people to see her alive. She wept uncontrollably as she denied sending her as "a sacrificial lamb" with a known violent sexual predator.

When asked if she did not care, Ms Quinn replied: "Of course I did. I didn't know the half of his (Howard's) life story until recently. Trying to make out that I knew? Jesus Christ."

Earlier she had told the court that when Arlene failed to turn up after a week, she "knew in her heart" she was dead.

Knowing Howard was on bail for an alleged sex attack on another girl, she thought he had sexually abused and then murdered her friend, the court heard.

"I believed that Saturday that Arlene was dead and that Bob Howard had murdered her," said Ms Quinn.

And, when an agitated Howard asked her to lie, the penny dropped that something dreadful had happened.

Ms Quinn added: "I thought in my heart and soul that she was dead."

The case has been adjourned.

Belfast Telegraph


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