Convicted child killer responsible for death of teenager Arlene Arkinson

A Coroner has ruled that a child killer and ‘violent sexual offender’ was responsible for the death of teenager Arlene Arkinson who disappeared in 1994 and whose body has never been found.

Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 8:59 am
Arlene Arkinson was 15 when she disappeared. Her body was never found.
Arlene Arkinson was 15 when she disappeared. Her body was never found.

At the end of an inquest into the disappearance of the 15-year-old on August 14, 1994 Coroner Brian Sherrard said on Wednesday that he believed the body of the Castlederg teenager was still in the jurisdiction.

Robert Lesarian Howard had been charged with Arlene Arkinson’s murder but was cleared by a jury, who were not told that he had previously been convicted of the murder and rape of a schoolgirl Hannah Williams in London. He died in prison in 2015 aged 71 while serving life.

In a lengthy judgement the Coroner outlined the details of Arlene Arkinson’s disappearance after she left her sister’s home to go to Bundoran with a friend and her boyfriend, as well as Robert Howard on the night of August 13 1994.

Child killer Robert Lesarian Howard.

They returned to Castlederg at around 2.30am and Howard who was driving dropped the friend and her boyfriend off leaving with Arlene in the car and that was the last time she was seen alive.

The Coroner said Arlene ‘lost her life on that night’ and despite a ‘very thorough investigation’ her body has never been found.

He said he is satisfied she is dead as there has been ‘no legal presence’ of the teenager since that date.

The inquest heard that Arlene would have been described as ‘home bird’ and would not have left voluntarily and that she had told a friend she would ‘have stayed for life in Castlederg.’

Kathleen Arkinson, sister of murdered schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson, speaking to the media after a coroner delivered his findings outside Omagh Courthouse in County Tyrone in the case of the missing schoolgirl. Picture date: Wednesday July 21, 2021.

The inquest heard that Howard who had a history of sexual offences especially against young girls started ‘concocting’ an alibi the day Arlene disappeared.

He began by telling several people that he returned home around 3am when in fact he did not return until at least 9am the morning of August 14.

Howard was described as ‘an unemployed drifter’ who came to Castlederg around 1991. The inquest was told he gained a measure of ‘respectability’ by his relationship with his partner but he was a man with a history of violent sexual offences against young girls. At the time of Arlene’s disappearance he was on bail for a sexual assault on another female. Initially the police did not link Howard’s charges with their investigation and it was not until late September 1994 that he was first arrested and questioned about the disappearance.

Howard was described as ‘a master manipulator’ and the Coroner said Howard had made what he described as ‘quasi admissions’ to police as regards Arlene’s disappearance asking on one occasion if he co-operated with police would he serve his sentence in the North.

Arlene Arkinson.

After making his ruling, the Coroner praised Kathleen, Arlene’s sister who he said had driven the investigation on and described her as ‘remarkable.’