Belfast Telegraph

Paedophile confessed in jail to killing Arlene, court told

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Paedophile Robert Howard admitted in prison that he killed schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson, a coroner's court has been told.

The sex predator was overhead boasting about getting away with murder while he was being held at a jail in England, it was revealed.

Howard said in 2009: "On my first, I know I got away with it."

A year later, he was overheard saying: "I thought I got away with it ... I did."

The revelations emerged as a top detective who led the Arkinson inquiry for nine years gave evidence to Belfast Coroner's Court.

Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said the conversational snippets had formed a vital part of his investigation.

Mr Murray said: "This was an implicit admission at the very least, if not an explicit one, that he had got away with murder.

"The only murder that he had ever been acquitted of in a court of law, that we know of, was Arlene Arkinson."

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

She was last seen being driven off during the early hours of August 14, 1994, down a country road with the convicted child killer. Her body has never been found.

Chilling conversational extracts in which Howard appeared to recount murder, clean-up and disposal of a body were also read to the inquest.

They included talk of drugging, choking and a blood-soaked body. He also mentioned "burning her".

Howard was quoted as saying: "See, I couldn't hold her ... I got her over to the sink that's just inside." He added: "She's strong" and "I bound her".

The conversations were reported to police over a three-year period between 2009 and 2012, although the source of the information was not disclosed to the court.

At the time, Howard was serving a life sentence for the murder of south London teenager Hannah Williams.

At one point Coroner Brian Sherrard halted proceedings when Kathleen Arkinson, the missing schoolgirl's sister, broke down in tears.

In 2005, Howard was found not guilty of murdering Arlene by a jury which was never told of his lengthy criminal history.

He remained the prime suspect in the high-profile case until his death in prison last year aged 71.

The court was told he had expressed concerns about double jeopardy and was overheard claiming: "It doesn't matter because I was found not guilty but now they resurrect the case."

Although police believed the prison conversations were hugely significant, prosecutors did not believe they met the high evidential threshold to overturn the acquittal and commence a re-trial.

They did, however, reinvigorate the investigation and prompted an examination of Howard's former flat on Main Street in Castlederg which unearthed a number of new leads.

Mr Murray was responsible for overseeing the Arkinson investigation from October 2005 until early 2014 - longer than any other senior officer.

The scope of the long-running inquest is to examine whether Arlene Arkinson is dead, how, when and where she died.

Mr Murray said the evidence suggested she had been murdered by Howard.

"It is my firm belief that Arlene Arkinson is dead," he told the court.

The case has been adjourned.

Belfast Telegraph


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