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We feel let down

Published 07/02/2013

Lesley-Anne McKeown




THE sister of missing schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson yesterday said she fears she may not live to see a full inquest into the teenager's death.

Eight years after child killer Robert Howard was cleared of the 1994 murder, Kathleen Arkinson, pictured below, said she and her family had been failed yet again by the authorities.

She said: "The system has let me down and the family down.

"At times I think, will I make it myself for Arlene's inquest? I have been asking for this since 2005. It would mean a bit of closure and comfort.

"This is just ridiculous. Arlene is pushed to the side again."

Arlene (15), from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, disappeared in August 1994 after a night out at a disco in Donegal. Her body has never been found.

At a preliminary hearing in Belfast's Old Town Hall senior coroner John Leckey ruled out holding a full inquest this year because of a strain on resources.

He said: "I would not have the capacity to hold an inquest this year. I just would not have the resources."

Arkinson family barrister Henry Toner QC said he was surprised by the revelation.

"I am slightly taken aback," he said.

Mr Toner urged the court to set a date for the inquest as soon as possible.

"If we proceed in the way we are going it could be 2015," he said.

In 2005 Howard was acquitted of Arlene's murder but the jury was unaware that he had a history of sex attacks and that two years earlier he had been found guilty of murdering Hannah Williams (14) in south London.

An inquest into Arlene's death was ordered in 2007 but has been dogged by delays after Howard's legal team launched a legal challenge, claiming it could undermine the trial verdict.

High Court judge Mr Justice Treacy criticised the delay.

Acting on new information, police carried out searches of Howard's former flat at Main Street in Castlederg last year.

Mark Robinson, a barrister representing the PSNI, told the hearing that officers had removed 800 forensic exhibits from the flat and were awaiting results.

A derelict farm in Strabane was also excavated but tests had proved negative. No searches have been carried out in the Republic.

Mr Robinson said: "This is not a matter that has gone to sleep. This is a matter that has been proactively chased down. The police are doing everything they can."

More than 3,000 documents and 793 statements have been prepared by the PSNI for an inquest and are expected to be disclosed to the legal services next week.

Another preliminary hearing has been scheduled for March 8.

■ INQUEST:

Kathleen Arkinson says she fears she will not live to see a full inquest into the death of her sister Arlene (15), pictured, who was murdered in 1994