Belfast Telegraph

Sister not unlawfully held in house search for body of murdered Arlene

By George Jackson

A sister of Castlederg teenager Arlene Arkinson, who has been missing since August 1994, yesterday lost her claim for damages for unlawful detention by the RUC during a three-day search operation of her Co Tyrone home.

Kathleen Arkinson was instead awarded £1,500 plus interest for damages caused to her home at Drumnabey Park in Castlederg in April 1996 by police officers searching for her sister's body.

A similar sum plus interest was also awarded to Stephen Walsh, the father of Ms Arkinson's four children.

He too lost his claim for unlawful detention and a further claim for unlawful arrest on suspicion of the murder of Arlene.

In her reserved judgment at the County Court in Londonderry yesterday, Judge Elizabeth McCaffrey said the background to both claims was the murder of Arlene on August 14, 1994 after the 15-year-old had returned from a nightclub in Bundoran, Co Donegal.

The teenager's body has never been found, nor has anyone been convicted of her murder.

In June 2005 convicted child killer Robert Howard was acquitted of the crime.

However, the jurors at his trial were not told until after their not guilty verdict that Howard was serving a life sentence for the murder of a teenage girl in London in 2001. Howard died in prison in 2015.

When the claims for damages was heard last December, a retired police officer told Judge McCaffrey that detectives investigating the teenager's disappearance and murder received information from a reliable source in April 1996 that led to the search of the plaintiffs' home.

"There was reliable intelligence that had come into the system to implicate Stephen Walsh in the murder of Arlene Arkinson," he said.

"It was information from a source.

"The source stated there had been an argument in the house after Kathleen Arkinson had found Stephen Walsh in bed with Arlene Arkinson.

"My particular knowledge was that he was complicit in the murder of Arlene Arkinson on August 14, 1994 and that the body had been concealed in the rear garden."

Judge McCaffrey said yesterday that when the RUC received that information it was justified in carrying out the search operation and in detaining Mr Walsh.

She said the source of the information had stated that Arlene died after she was either pushed or fell down the stairs during an argument after her sister had reportedly found her in bed with Mr Walsh.

Judge McCaffrey said the fact that relatives of the plaintiffs as well as their solicitor were able to visit them in their home during the three-day search operation undermined their claims that they had been illegally detained against their will.

She said a warrant to search the house had been properly obtained by detectives investigating Arlene's murder.

Judge McCaffrey said the police were also justified in questioning Mr Walsh on suspicion of Arlene's murder, even though he was later released without being charged.

The schoolgirl's death is currently being examined in an inquest, which began in February 2016

Legal proceedings have been stalled for months awaiting information from the authorities in the Republic, and barrister Ronan Daly also told a preliminary hearing last month that there was an application currently for exhumation of a grave in relation to enquiries.

The inquest has been adjourned until April 12.

Police have launched numerous searches for the teenager's body.

In September 2016 they sent specialist teams to examine a new site in a field near Killen, outside Castlederg.

Belfast Telegraph

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