Northern Ireland news

Witness 'thinks of Arlene Arkinson every day,' inquest hears

Arlene vanished after a night out at a disco in Co Donegal in 1994
Lesley-Anne McKeown, PA

ONE of the last people to see teenager Arlene Arkinson alive has said he has no idea where she is buried.

Patrick John Heggarty, also known as Sean Heggarty, told an inquest at Belfast's Laganside Court he is still haunted by the teenager's disappearance.

Fifteen-year-old Arlene, from Castlederg, vanished after a night out at a disco in Co Donegal in 1994.

She was last seen with convicted child killer Robert Howard, who died in prison last year.

The court heard how Mr Heggarty had gone to Bundoran with his then girlfriend Donna Quinn, a friend of Arlene's, and Howard who had been dating Ms Quinn's mother, Patricia Quinn.

When asked by a lawyer for the PSNI if he had any idea where the schoolgirl was buried, he replied: "Absolutely not."

"I wonder about Arlene every day," said Mr Heggarty. "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."

Howard was acquitted of Arlene's murder by a jury that was unaware of his previous conviction for murdering schoolgirl Hannah Williams (14) in south London.

He always remained the police's prime suspect.

Meanwhile, the court also heard how Arlene did not appear drunk on the night she disappeared.

An intoxicated Mr Heggarty and Donna Quinn, who had vomited on the journey back to Castlederg, were dropped off first.

Howard drove off with Arlene in the front seat of his car.

In the days after Arlene disappeared, at the request of his then girlfriend, Mr Heggarty lied about being in her company but later told police the truth.

When Robert Howard found out, he became agitated, it was claimed.

Mr Heggarty added: "He sounded surprised as far as I recall. He said 'you what?'.

"He seemed very panicky, alarmed."

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