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Friday 19 September 2014

Sister's 'relief' at Arlene inquest

Published 08/03/2013 | 12:26

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Arlene Arkinson's sister Kathleen

The sister of missing schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson has expressed relief that a date has been set for an inquest into the death.

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But the family say the eight-week long hearing, scheduled to start next April, should be held close to their Co Tyrone home so family members who suffer ill health can attend.

Kathleen Arkinson said: "It is good news. It has been a long process and at times we felt like giving up. But Arlene deserves justice."

Arlene, 15, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone disappeared in August 1994 after a night out at a disco in Donegal. Her body has never been found.

In 2005 child killer Robert Howard was acquitted of murder but the jury was unaware he had a history of sex attacks and that two years earlier he had been found guilty of murdering Hannah Williams, 14, in south London.

Ms Arkinson added: "I do not want to go up that road again to Laganisde - there are too many bad memories after what happened in 2005 with the not guilty verdict. We travelled that road every day for six weeks during the trial which was seven years ago and we do not have the same health as we did then.

"Arlene is from Tyrone and we think Arlene's inquest should be held near her home place."

Next year's hearing is expected to start as soon as the courts reopen after Easter, which next year falls on April 20 - what would have been Arlene's 35th birthday. Another preliminary hearing has been set for April 12 this year.

A preliminary hearing at Belfast's Old Town Hall was told Howard, who is currently behind bars at Frankland prison in Co Durham, may give evidence via videolink. Senior Coroner John Leckey said: "Robert Howard is a category A prisoner and if this was a criminal trial he would have to be there obviously, in the dock. But this is not a criminal trial and he will be wearing the hat of a witness."

It was also revealed that a quarter of a million pages of documents have been cleared by the PSNI for disclosure to the Coroner's Office. An inquest into Arlene's death was ordered in 2007 but has been dogged by delays after Howard's legal team launched a legal challenge claiming it could undermine the trial verdict.

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