New hunt to find Arlene's remains

New hunt to find Arlene's remains
12 December 2006
Belfast Telegraph

The news comes as it emerged that the findings of an inquiry into the controversial prosecution of a sex fiend for the murder of Arlene Arkinson will be published tomorrow. Before Christmas more searches will be carried out to find the body of the missing schoolgirl, last seen in the company of convicted rapist and murderer Robert Howard.

A spokesperson for the PSNI in Strabane said that bogland in Co Tyrone close to where previous searches took place will be examined within weeks in a bid to find the body of 15-year-old Arlene, who vanished 12 years ago.

The news follows confirmation of an internal inquiry carried out by the Public Prosecution Service into its handling of Howard - the man widely believed to be responsible for the death of Arlene.

Howard was cleared of the crime in 2005. The trial was not told of his 40-year litany of child sex crimes, or the fact that he was 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 February, searches took place across bogland three miles from the last place Arlene was seen in the company of Howard, after he gave her a lift home from a disco in Co Donegal in 1994. The land off the Drumquin Road was combed by forensic experts from Queen's University.

Search dog Eddie, who also helped the hunt for murder victim Attracta Harron, was also involved. Police sealed off about six acres for examination and water samples were taken in a bid to ascertain whether Arlene's body may have been hidden there.

Today a PSNI spokesman said: "There will be more searches before Christmas. "These will be in and around the searches which took place earlier this year. It is too early to say what has prompted this new search."

Kathleen Arkinson said today: "Someone from the PPS spoke to me on the phone and we then met up, maybe three weeks ago or more, and said they had looked into what happened with Robert Howard. "We didn't know it was going on at the time and we were not involved, but there is nothing new in what we were told. It was not helpful at all. It was just more or less what we knew already, that the judge might not have accepted the evidence. "I was basically told the reasons why the bad character evidence wasn't given and that was that. "I don't know if anything will come of it, we were not told. The only good that could come of it is if things are changed. But it is too late for us."

She added: "The main thing now is to wait for more searches. We have been told that there will be more before the end of the year. "Hopefully with the new technology they will find something."

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 tomorrow. The Arkinson family have previously been informed that it would be published. "Arrangements have been made so that copies will be released simultaneously to interested parties."

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