Arlene Arkinson 'may have been pregnant' when she disappeared, inquest told
Arlene Arkinson inquest begins but family not hopeful truth will out
The long-delayed inquest into the murder of a schoolgirl who vanished in 1994 has heard that she confided to friends that she thought she was pregnant on the night she disappeared.
Arlene Arkinson (15) vanished in 1994 after crossing the border from Castlederg to attend a disco in Co Donegal.
She was last seen with convicted child killer Robert Howard, who died aged 71 in a Co Durham prison in October.
He had been due to give evidence at the inquest.
Howard was acquitted of the teenager's murder by a jury that was unaware of his previous conviction for murdering schoolgirl Hannah Williams, 14, in south London.
He always remained the police's prime suspect in the Arkinson case.
The court heard that Arlene confided to friends that she thought she was pregnant on the evening she disappeared.
She had alleged the father was someone close to, but not a member of the Arkinson family.
Frank O'Donoghue QC, counsel for the coroners service said: "She was confiding in some friends that she was pregnant and that the father was a person closely connected but not a member of the Arkinson family."
The inquest heard Arlene had experienced a trouble childhood after the death of her mother when she was ten.
School teachers described her as an "intelligent and well liked pupil" but said her poor attendance was likely to hold her back, Mr O'Donoghue said.
Her father struggled with an alcohol addiction and she had lived with a number of elder siblings.
And while staying with her sister Anita in 1993 she was sexually assaulted by her brother in law Seamus McGale.
Seamus had been imprisoned and was released 10 days before Arlene's disappearance.
Robert Howard, the last man believed to have been seen with Arlene on August 14, 1994 was on bail at the time for a previous sexual assault.
Arlene's sister Kathleen thanked the inquest for holding the new hearing.
Kathleen Arkinson described her sister as a "blue-eyed girl".
Choking back tears, she said: "Mummy passed away when Arlene was 11 and Arlene was just the blue-eyed girl of the family. She was brilliant at art, she was good at school. I want people to know the real Arlene. She was our sister and she deserves to be found."
Ms Arkinson added that she hoped the long awaited inquest would help "ease" the family's pain.