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True crime: My hunt for the child killer with the smirk that said ‘prove it’

Former detective Alan Bailey recalls his years on the trail of murderous sex offender Robert Howard who, a coroner recently ruled, did kill 15-year-old Arlene Arkinson

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Robert Howard

Robert Howard

Arlene Arkinson

Arlene Arkinson

Former Detective Sergeant Alan Bailey. Picture by Caroline Quinn

Former Detective Sergeant Alan Bailey. Picture by Caroline Quinn

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Robert Howard

‘I first met the child killer Robert Howard in Dublin’s Church Street on a wet night in November in the early 1990s. At the time I knew him as a wife beater. A call had come into Bridewell garda station in Dublin city centre, where I was stationed at the time. A woman was in distress. She had been attacked by her partner and was locked out of her home. A colleague and I drove to flats off Church Street where she lived. She was standing outside in the rain in her nightclothes.

We could see her face and hands were bruised. She told us her husband, Bob, had thrown her out of the house. She didn’t want to make a complaint. She just wanted us to help her get back inside so we knocked. A man threw open the door. I remember he was rugged-looking, handsome, not more than 5ft 10in. Usually, the perpetrators of domestic violence will put on a show of remorse for gardaí. Not him.


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