New hunt gets under way for Arlene's body

New hunt gets under way for Arlene's body
13 December 2006
Belfast Telegraph

A new search was today under way in Co Tyrone for the body of missing Castlederg teenager Arlene Arkinson - as Crown lawyers prepared to unveil a report into how they handled the prosecution of a sex beast acquitted of her murder.

Robert Lesarian Howard (61) - guilty of a 40-year litany of sex crimes,- was with the 15-year-old girl when she was last seen. He was acquitted of her murder at his trial in 2005.

A report was due to be released later today by the Public Prosecution Service.

The schoolgirl vanished 12 years ago after Howard gave her a lift home from a disco.

After he was acquitted, the pervert, currently imprisoned for the murder of a Kent schoolgirl, was unmasked as a serial sex offender whose crimes stretched back four decades.

Yesterday experts from Queen's University and Eddie, the specialist search dog who helped nail the killer of Strabane pensioner Attracta Harron, combed land near Castlederg in a bid to find the teenager's body.

The search area is near where water samples were taken in February, to ascertain whether Arlene's body may have been hidden in bogland close to where she was last seen with convicted Howard after a disco in 1994.

A police spokeswoman said today: "Detectives investigating the murder of Arlene Arkinson are carrying out searches in Co Tyrone as part of an ongoing search strategy."

The hunt follows revelations of an internal inquiry carried out by the PPS into how it failed to convict Howard, who is serving a life sentence at Frankland Prison in England for the murder of schoolgirl Hannah Williams. Hannah (14), was found with a rope around her neck in Kent in October 2003.

Her trial heard evidence from a woman drugged and raped by Howard in Castlederg in 1993. In that case, Howard escaped with a suspended sentence and went on to murder Miss Williams.

However, his victim was not asked to give evidence in his trial for the murder of Arlene, from which he later walked free.

In a statement this morning, the Public Prosecution Service said: "An inquiry into legal decisions taken in relation to the prosecution of Robert Lesarian Howard will be published today.

"Arrangements have been made so that copies will be released simultaneously to interested parties."

Arlene's sister Kathleen said she has already been "taken through" a copy of the report by the PPS. "It was nothing new," she said. "Now these searches are all we have."

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