Family fights for Arlene inquest

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The family of Arlene Arkinson have vowed to fight “tooth and nail” against attempts to block an inquest into her death by the man widely believed to have murdered the teenager.

Convicted child killer and rapist Robert Lesarian Howard (67) has been accused of “torturing” the Arkinson family after he was granted leave by the High Court in Belfast to seek a judicial review of the senior coroner’s decision to examine events surrounding the disappearance of the 15-year-old in 1994.

The Castlederg teenager’s older sister Kathleen branded Howard, “the Devil’s son”. She also vowed to ensure that the inquest goes ahead as planned and that Howard will be forced to take the stand.

Howard’s legal team have argued that an inquest would be used as a way of reopening the murder case because the Arkinson family were dissatisfied with the outcome of the 2005 criminal trial in which the already convicted killer was acquitted of murder.

Kathleen Arkinson said Howard’s latest move was “twisting the knife” on their grief and not for the first time. “We’ll fight tooth and nail for the inquest,” she added. She said the attempt to challenge the decision to hold an inquest into the circumstances of her sister’s death was “totally and utterly wrong”.

“I cannot understand it. He was the last person with Arlene and I think he should be put into that box to tell us what he did with her.

“I want the inquest to go ahead. He’s the only person who knows where Arlene is. It’s just so horrible.

“He has ruined our whole family and wrecked so many people’s lives. I do not believe he is a human being - I truly believe he is the Devil’s son. This is just more torture for us, but he will not beat us. He will attend an inquest - I’ll make sure of it.”

Arlene, from Castlederg in Co Tyrone, disappeared after leaving a disco in Bundoran. Her body has never been found, but she is believed to have been murdered. She was last seen in a car with Howard at a rural location outside Castlederg. Howard, who formerly lived near the Arkinson family home, was charged with her murder but acquitted at trial in 2005. The jury did not know that by then he was already serving life for raping and killing 14-year-old Hannah Williams, from Deptford, south London.

Howard’s legal team claim the move to hold an inquest involves an attempt to undermine the not guilty verdict returned against him.

The lawyers, who unsuccessfully tried to have reporting restrictions imposed on their application, pointed out that the coroner’s stated purpose was to allow Arlene’s death to be registered.

It was argued that this could be achieved through an alternative High Court procedure with the Presumption of Death Act 2009 coming into effect.