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WEREWOLF EXPOSED: Is this the face of Ireland's WORST ever sex KILLER? JUDGE LIFTS BAN ON PAST OF PSYCHO ROBERT HOWARD.

Byline: By JILLY BEATTIE, ROSA PRINCE and MAURICE FITZMAURICE

TWISTED sex killer Robert Howard prowled Ireland looking for children to rape and murder.

The 61-year-old psycho spread his evil nationwide, trawling the length and breadth of the country.

Originally from Co Laois, the killer nicknamed The Werewolf lived at addresses in Dublin, Cork, Wexford and Monaghan and possibly more, as his whereabouts was often unknown.

At one point, he was found hiding out in a cottage in Co Wexford with a group of fellow paedophiles. The gang were laying low in a pretty Hansel and Gretel-type house, close to a primary school.

They were seeking refuge in Ireland to escape the UK's paedophile register, which had not yet been introduced in the Republic. Gardai issued his photograph to stations north and south of the border to warn officers to keep watch on him. But he regularly scoured the border area in search of victims.

It is in this locality that the parents of missing Arlene Arkinson, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, believe Howard abducted and killed their daughter, although he was cleared earlier this year of her murder.

Now Robert Lesarian Howard could prove to be a major breakthrough in the case of Ireland's missing women.

Gardai have re-opened two of the missing cases - Annie McCarrick and Jo Jo Dullard - which all happened in a five year-period in the Leinster area.

They also want to quiz him on the 1998 disappearances of 18-year-old Ciara Breen, and Deirdre Jacob, 19.

A judge in a Belfast court yesterday lifted reporting restrictions on Howard's past, revealing a horrific history spanning decades.

His youngest sex crime victim was a child of six and the eldest was a 60-year-old virgin - he was sentenced to 10 years in 1974 for her double rape.

He broke into her Co Cork house, punched her in the face and mutilated her breasts before gagging her with her bed sheet and abusing her for five hours.

Howard spent much of the 1980s and 1990s travelling between the UK and Ireland.

In 1991 as part of his "grooming" pattern, he befriended an educationally subnormal girl in Dublin. He lured her to his caravan for sex until she eventually fell pregnant by him and went on to have his only known child.

She told police about three times when he tied her up and had rough sex with her, tying a ligature round her neck.

But officers were powerless to press charges because prosecutors decided the girl was too traumatised to make a credible witness.

Today, The Werewolf is back in Britain, serving a life sentence for the murder of English schoolgirl Hannah Williams. He was convicted of killing the 15-year-old in 2003 and the court heard how he groomed his victim through her mother and a friend, after attaching himself to the family.

Her body was uncovered by workmen on the Channel Tunnel almost a year after she went missing. A rope had been tied around her head.

Kent's Chief Superintendent Colin Murphy recommended yesterday that Howard be investigated regarding other Irish disappearances. He said: "This man should be closely examined to see if he has been involved in any other murders."

It was by chance that workmen found Hannah's body, helping police solve her murder. But no such trace has been found of 15-year-old Arlene, who was last seen in Howard's company at a disco in Bundoran, Co Donegal, in 1994. Howard was questioned at the time but released after claiming the schoolgirl was alive and well when he dropped her off.

Arlene's relatives were angry that Howard, who was listed in Garda files as a serial sex offender, was not charged.

They were incensed when he was later found guilty of seriously sexually assaulting a friend of Arlene's who he had held prisoner in his flat.

He kidnapped her, hung her upside down inside a wardrobe and forced her to carry out sex acts.

He tied a rope around her neck, tightening it each time she said no, and his terrified victim only escaped by throwing herself through a second-floor window.

He was given a three-year suspended sentence for this crime and walked free from court.

In Belfast Crown Court yesterday, Howard escaped prosecution for a sex crime.

The prosecution dropped charges, including rape, of a schoolgirl although prosecutor Ciaran Murphy asked the charges, dating back to 1988, "remain on the books".

And Judge Tom Burgess lifted the two-year media blackout allowing Howard's chilling record to be revealed.

But yesterday Arlene's sister Kathleen Arkinson told how she will mark her 37th birthday tomorrow with a prayer that her younger sister's body is found.

For the first time in the 11 years since Arlene vanished, her family has been touched by a feeling of calm.

Now they can name of the man they believe raped and murdered the teenager before hiding her body.

Kathleen said: "Robert Howard is a child killer, a predator and a sexual deviant.

"I believe he murdered Arlene. I believe he raped and strangled her and I believe he dumped her body somewhere clever so that the chances of someone finding her were practically nil.

"He was found not guilty of murdering Arlene in June but if the jury had known even a fraction of his background, I'm sure they'd have convicted him.

"They didn't see the monster that sat in front of them. They just saw an old man having a bad day - his unshaven pathetic face, the grey hair and the jacket that hung from his shoulders.

"They didn't recognise him as a rapist or a killer because they didn't have the information they needed to reach the right conclusion.

"The law changed on April 20 to allow juries to be given background details on the accused. We did everything in our power to have his convictions released in court but they wouldn't do it and as a result he was found not guilty of murdering my sister.

"We've battled for 11 years to put that animal behind bars for Arlene's murder and so far we've failed. He stole her life, he stole all our lives.

"But at least now we can tell people about Robert Howard and we will keep looking for Arlene."

CAPTION(S):

PAEDO; Robert Howard's evil crime spree spans decades; MISSING; Arlene Atkinson was with Howard
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 21, 2005
Words:1055
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