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ARLENE 'NOT DEAD' Killer to make shock claim at inquest.

Byline: LESLEY-ANNE MCKEOWN

LAWYERS for child killer Robert Howard are to argue that missing Arlene Arkinson may not be dead, it emerged yesterday.

The legal move emerged as a date was finally set for an inquest into the teenager's death.

A barrister representing Howard, once accused of Arlene's murder, also said they will seek access to files that show the 15-year-old may have wanted to run away from home at the time she disappeared.

The coroner's investigation into the disappearance of the teenager over 20 years ago was postponed in May after a development in the police investigation prompted fresh digs for her body.

At a preliminary hearing in Belfast yesterday it was revealed that 92 new searches had failed to find Arlene and it was agreed the inquest should start next September.

Arlene, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, went missing in August 1994 after a night out at a disco across the border in Co Donegal.

In 2005 convicted child-killer Robert Howard, who was the last person seen with her, was acquitted of her murder.

The trial jury was unaware of his history of sex attacks and his conviction for killing south London teenager Hannah Williams in 2001.

The 69-year-old, who is serving a life sentence at HMP Frankland in Co Durham, is expected to give evidence via videolink at the inquest on September 1, 2015.

Arlene's sister Kathleen Arkinson, said: "We are happy. We have waited 20 years so what is a few more months."

The preliminary inquiry at Mays Chambers also heard that Howard's lawyers would be contesting the assumption that Arlene is dead.

Karen Quinlivan QC said: "You cannot work on the assumption that Arlene is dead." She added they would be arguing against redactions in Social Services documents which could show the teenager had a motive for running away.

Ms Quinlivan said: "The issue of whether or not she had a motive for running away from home is relevant to the issue of whether she's alive or not."

Difficulties with PSNI documents were also raised. Ms Quinlivan said some material had been rendered useless and illegible because of "unwarranted" redactions. Mark Robinson, representing the PSNI, said Major Investigation Team officers carried out the redactions to speed up proceedings and told the court they were proposals approved by the coroner.

Another preliminary hearing will be held on November 7. Meanwhile, Ms Arkinson said her siblings Paula, Anita, Adrian and Martin wished to thank the coroner, their lawyers and members of the public who had co-operated with a police appeal for DNA samples earlier this year.

irish@mgn.co.uk

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 9, 2014
Words:438
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