Northern Ireland

Arlene Arkinson's family vow they will never stop searching for teenager's body

Arlene Arkinson (15) disappeared in August 1994 following a night out in Bundoran, Co Donegal. Picture by PA
Arlene Arkinson (15) disappeared in August 1994 following a night out in Bundoran, Co Donegal. Picture by PA

The family of a teenager abducted and murdered almost 25 years ago have vowed never to stop looking for her body.

Arlene Arkinson (15) disappeared in August 1994 following a night out.

An inquest into her presumed death concluded on Tuesday in Belfast after more than a decade of stop-start hearings.

A coroner will deliver his findings on a future date.

Arlene's sister Kathleen said: "She was 15 when she went missing. She would have been 40 now on April 20."

Arlene was from the village of Castlederg in Co Tyrone.

She went missing after attending a disco at Bundoran in Co Donegal.

She was last seen in a car driven by Robert Howard.

The chief suspect and convicted child killer and rapist died in prison in 2015 aged 71.

Howard was charged with murdering the 15-year-old, but he was acquitted in 2005.

The jury was not told the predator, originally from Co Laois, had a history of sexual violence.

By the time of his trial, he was already serving a life term for killing and raping London teenager Hannah Williams.

Efforts to recover Arlene's body have failed.

Ms Arkinson said: "It was us that suffered, dragged through the mud. What the police gave us was unbelievable but we are still standing here and I will be here until Arlene is found.

"I will never give up looking for Arlene and I would like to thank the public for their prayers and keep Arlene in their prayers."

Her barrister Henry Toner QC told the coroner's court lines of inquiry had been investigated as far as they could be and evidence-giving had been concluded.

Mr Toner confirmed the family knew Arlene was dead and believed she was murdered by Howard.

He said the family had "suffered so much" since 1994, and the extent of Arlene's suffering would never be known.

The inquest opened in November 2007.

Mr Toner said: "This extended process has added to the suffering of those who loved Arlene.

"This is the final day of hearings... but their suffering will continue long beyond the conclusion of this inquest."

He said some witnesses who gave evidence to the inquest were not honest in their accounts.

"Some came to defend lies they told 20 years ago and the family have no thanks for those witnesses," he said.

"This inquest has heard sufficient evidence to establish such truth about Arlene's death as can be found."

Judge Brian Sherrard said he had drawn up draft conclusions, but it would be the autumn before they were ready for delivery.

A special hearing will be convened in Omagh courthouse.

The coroner said: "This has been a very long process and the effort, of course, at all stages and now is to allow our community as a whole, and the Arkinson family in particular, to understand the loss of Arlene, who was a valued member of our community."