A former leading police dectective may be forced to appear at the inquest for missing Castlederg teenager Arlene Arkinson.
It has been claimed that Eric Anderson, a retired detective superintendent may still possess documentation relating to the schoolgirl’s disappearance more than two decades ago.
The former RUC man has cited ill health as a reason for non-attendance at other high profile inquests.
The start of the inquest has been delayed for two weeks whilst legal matters are cleared up. The case has suffered dozens of delays in recent years.
However, by February 29, coroners will have the power to compel witnesses to attend or impose fines for non-appearances.
Counsel for the Arkinson family, Henry Toner QC told Belfast: “Mr Anderson I understand is not in attendance.
“That is something which has to be nailed earlier rather than later.”
And, at the preliminary hearing, Coroner Brian Sherrard advised that additonal legislation, taking effect at the end of next month would give the ability to force witnesses into court with threats of fines or contempt of court proceedings.
Mr Sherrard said: “It may be that we find ourselves in a better position as opposed to a worse position later in the month.”
The Coroner had laid out a demand that Mr Anderson bring any relevant documentation to the preliminary hearing.
Arlene Arkinson was 15-years-old when she vanished after a night out at a disco in Bundoran, Co Donegal in 1994.
The Castlederg teenager was last seen with convicted child killer Robert Howard, who died in prison last year.
Howard was acquitted of Arlene Arkinson’s murder by a jury that was not aware of a previous conviction he had for the murder of a teenage girl in south London.
71-year-old Howard was always the police’s chief suspect in Arlene’s disappearance and had been set to give evidence before the inquest which is now set to begin on February 15.
In all preliminary proceedings in the case have lasted eight years.
A number of start dates were knocked back because of police delays in the disclosure of documents and issues around security vetting.
The inquest is to be heard without a jury and is expected to last several months.
Proceedings will be streamed via video link to Omagh Courthouse to facilitate the Arkinson family.