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Thursday 23 February 2017

'Good progress being made' to resolve disclosure dispute in Arlene Arkinson inquest

Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 09/03/2016 | 11:58

Arlene Arkinson vanished after a disco in 1994
Arlene Arkinson vanished after a disco in 1994

Good progress is being made to resolve the disclosure dispute at the centre of an inquest for missing teenager Arlene Arkinson, a coroner's court has heard.

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Documents relating to searches and some other sensitive police material are now ready to be handed over to lawyers representing relatives of the Co Tyrone schoolgirl, it was claimed.

Fiona Doherty QC, barrister for the Coroner's Service said: "A few issues need to be bottomed out but good progress is being made."

The row over the disclosure of material from the Police Service of Northern Ireland has been ongoing since the long-delayed inquest started three weeks ago.

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

Although coroner Brian Sherrard has yet to formally rule on the PSNI's contentious Public Interest Immunity application, he stressed the level of redacted material was "modest" and was confined to individual names, phrases and single words.

Fifteen-year-old Arlene, from Castlederg, went missing after a night out across the border in Co Donegal in August 1994.

She was last seen with paedophile Robert Howard who was acquitted of her murder in 2005 by a jury which was not told of his conviction for killing another schoolgirl in South London.

Howard, 71, remained the prime suspect until his death in prison last year.

Meanwhile, it also emerged that a letter was being sent to Arlene's sister Anita McGale requesting that she give evidence.

Mr Sherrard said he did not want to exercise his new powers to compel a witness but noted that it was important the court heard what she had to say.

The coroner said: "I do not wish to go down any aggressive route with regard to Mrs McGale or any witness but I hope that the letter will be suitably persuasive."

The case has been adjourned until Friday when three social workers are expected to give evidence.

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