Sunday 25 September 2016

Child killer and prime suspect in Arlene Atkinson murder 'haunted by face of a girl', inquest hears

Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 07/03/2016 | 13:24

Convicted child killer Robert Howard, as a long-delayed inquest into the death of murdered schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson will finally start on Monday, nine years after it was ordered
Convicted child killer Robert Howard, as a long-delayed inquest into the death of murdered schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson will finally start on Monday, nine years after it was ordered
Arlene Arkinson vanished after a disco in 1994

Child killer Robert Howard told a police officer he was haunted by the face of a girl and described his time in Castlederg as very "dark", a coroner's court has heard.

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Howard - the prime suspect in the Arlene Arkinson murder - is also alleged to have asked whether fish would have eaten a body dumped in water.

Detective Sergeant Trevor Stevenson, who was stationed in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, between 1990 and 1994, said he had no doubt Howard was talking about Arlene Arkinson, whose body has never been found.

He said: "I believe he was talking about Arlene Arkinson because to be 'haunted' meant they had to be dead.

"To my knowledge she was the only girl he had killed while he was in Castlederg."

DS Stevenson had been questioning Howard at a police station in Deptford, London, about another alleged rape in 1999.

In a statement, which was read to the court, the officer said Howard had described living in Castlederg as a "very dark time".

DS Stevenson said: "He (Howard) said that not a day went past that he didn't think about the terrible things which had happened in Castlederg and that he was haunted by it.

"He said he would see a face in the crowd, the face which would remind him of the girl, and bring it all back to him."

During the course of the 20 minute conversation in a waiting area of the police station, Howard had been intense.

DS Stevenson added: "Robert Howard was one of the most evil men I have ever met."

Howard also admitted to being a scared coward who was only concerned for himself and had inquired about incarceration, asking whether life meant life and whether he would be locked in a tiny cell.

Howard said he would cross the road when he saw a policeman because he believed they were coming for him, the court heard.

"He said he believed he needed help but was too scared to take the next step," DS Stevenson said.

Fifteen-year-old Arlene, from Castlederg, vanished after a night out at a disco across the Irish border in Co Donegal on August 13 1994. Her body has never been found.

Howard was acquitted of her murder in 2005 by a jury which was not told of his conviction for killing a south London teenager several years earlier.

But the 71-year-old remained the prime suspect in the Arkinson case until his death in prison last year.

Earlier, the court heard from Stephen Walsh, a former partner of Arlene's sister Kathleen, who was arrested in 1996 by officers investigating Arlene's disappearance.

He told the Belfast court he was the victim of a vicious rumour campaign and believed he should be able to know the identity of the person who tried to ruin his life.

He said: "All these allegations were made about me and Kathleen. You know the person that made these allegations.

"It is in those files that nobody can see. Me and Kathleen are entitled to find out who tried to destroy us."

Coroner Brian Sherrard said he would take the comments on board.

The hearing continues.

Press Association

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