‘No-one seems to want Arlene inquest held’

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The postponed inquiry into the death of Castlederg teenager Arlene Arkinson is becoming the “inquest which no one seems to want” , the family’s solicitor has said.

Solicitor Des Doherty made the comment after the schoolgirl’s family accused the police of prioritising sporting events over the search for her body. A letter from the Northern Ireland’s Coroner’s Office to the family has stated that the search for the remains was not been completed this summer due to “unseasonably wet conditions and the requirement of resources for the Olympic Torch, Irish Open Golf and public order during the marching season”.

Arlene’s sister Paula said the “excuses” made her “feel sick”. “We were told that no stone would be left unturned and the search for Arlene would not stop unless there was a big tragedy. I didn’t know that a golf tournament or an Olympic flame coming were emergencies. I think this is a disgrace, they should have been out searching for our Arlene . . . she’s been missing for 18 years.” The inquest into Arlene’s death was due to be heard this year but was held up to allow the searches for her body to continue.

The latest excuses for further delay “as the family sees it, do not stand up to scrutiny”, solicitor Des Doherty said.

“The family has lost all faith in the police investigation and their last hope to keep the relevant authorities accountable is the inquest procedure. But this inquest is almost turning into the inquest which no-one seems to want and the Arkinson family just do not understand that.”

In a statement, police said the search strategy is under review and that all new searches are subject to weather conditions, availability of resources and operational commitments. They said searches will resume early next month and will be carried out by a small team assisted by body recovery dogs.