Wednesday 22 November 2017

Child killer who was last to see missing teen alive: 'I hope she's cold and hungry'

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

Lesley-Anne McKeown

The last man to see Arlene Arkinson alive said he hoped the schoolgirl was "cold and hungry" two weeks after she went missing, a coroners' court has been told.

Convicted child killer Robert Howard made the callous remark as he drove two other teenage girls to a disco in August 1994.

In a statement read to Belfast Coroner's Court, Arlene's friend, Donna Quinn, said: "We thought she had just gone away somewhere.

"He (Howard) said: 'I hope she is cold and hungry wherever she is, for the bother she has caused us.'"

Fifteen-year-old Arlene, from Castlederg in Co Tyrone, vanished after a night out at a disco across the Irish border in Bundoran, Co Donegal.

She was last seen with Howard, who died in prison last year aged 71.

Howard was acquitted of her murder in 2005 by a jury which was unaware of his conviction for killing a 14-year-old in Kent.

However, he always remained the prime suspect in the Arkinson case.

Ms Quinn, who was aged 18 in 1994, was giving evidence during the sixth day of the long-delayed inquest.

She had invited Arlene, her then boyfriend Patrick John Heggarty and Robert Howard - who was dating her mother - out for the night in Bundoran.

All four travelled together in Howard's car and on the return journey, an intoxicated Ms Quinn and Mr Heggarty were dropped off first.

Despite being aware that Howard was on bail for an alleged sex attack and that he had expressed an interest in one of her friends, Ms Quinn was not concerned about Arlene's safety when she was driven off late at night alone in his car.

"Arlene wouldn't have looked at him any way," she said.

Under cross-examination from Frank O'Donoghue, barrister for the Coroners' Service, she also admitted that several days after the teen's disappearance, Howard had warned her not to say that Arlene had been in their company.

"He wanted you to lie about Arlene Arkinson being with you?" said Mr O'Donoghue.

"Yeah," replied Ms Quinn, who also asked her boyfriend to lie.

When asked why Howard had asked her not to tell the truth, Ms Quinn added: "He said he did not like the Arkinsons and because he was out on bail or something."

In another statement read to the court it was claimed Howard had denied having sex with Arlene.

The lawyer asked: "You knew that Howard liked young women, and here was Arlene being left with Howard at 3am in the morning. It can only mean one thing.

"You are asking him if he had sex with Arlene and he said that he didn't."

Ms Quinn said: "Aye, but I didn't mean it like that."

Howard was a regular visitor to her home at Churchtown Park in Castlederg and was like a father figure, it was claimed.

"He used to buy me and Francey (her brother) fags and give us sweets," said Ms Quinn.

It also emerged that Howard never again worn the white shirt and black trousers he had put on that night, on August 13 1994.

Mr O'Donoghue said: "Bob Howard was not a wealthy man, but you never saw those clothes, that white shirt or black trousers? It never crossed your mind to ask what happened to them?"

Ms Quinn replied: "It didn't actually, no."

There were emotional scenes as Ms Quinn and her mother Patricia entered the courtroom.

At one point Ms Quinn Snr shouted as Arlene's sister Kathleen Arkinson took her seat on the opposite side of the courtroom.

Donna Quinn wept as she sat in the public gallery awaiting to take her place in the witness stand.

Earlier, Patrick John Heggarty, also known as Sean Heggarty, told the court he was still haunted by the case.

When asked by a lawyer for the Police Service of Northern Ireland if he had any idea where the Arlene was buried, he replied: "Absolutely not."

Mr Heggarty added: "I wonder about Arlene every day. What happened from a normal night to turn into this. Unbelievable.

"I can safely say, I could see no difference that particular night than any other night that I have been out.

"I can't understand."

The case has been adjourned.

Press Association

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