Northern Ireland

Arkinson family 'feel pushed aside' after Howard ruling

Arlene Arkinson is believed to have been abducted and murdered
Image caption Arlene Arkinson went missing in 1994 and is believed to have been murdered

The sister of missing teenager Arlene Arkinson has said her family feel "pushed aside" by the legal system.

Convicted killer Robert Howard, who was found not guilty of murdering Arlene, won permission to challenge an inquest examining her death.

Kathleen Arkinson said the decision made the family feel "horrible".

She added: "There's no rights for Arlene - it's all for him. We feel that every time we try something for Arlene, we are pushed to the side."

'Son of the devil'

The body of 15-year-old Arlene, who is from Castlederg in County Tyrone, has never been found.

She vanished in 1994 after attending a disco in Bundoran in County Donegal.

Howard, 67, who formerly lived near her 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 Hanna Williams from Deptford, south London.

Her body was found in a cement works in Northfleet, Kent, in March 2002.

Howard was the last person Arlene was seen with on her way home from the disco.

Kathleen Arkinson added: "He was the last man with Arlene in that car and if I was in a crash and I was the last person to survive, I would have to go into a box and tell what happened.

"What is he afraid of? I think it's very wrong. To me, he is not human.

"He is like the devil's son and to give him his legal rights, I think is completely wrong."

Image caption Robert Howard is a convicted child killer and rapist

Howard's lawyers, who unsuccessfully tried to have reporting restrictions imposed on their judicial review 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.

'Arguable case'

No confirmation was given on whether or not Howard would co-operate with any inquest.

Counsel for the coroner contended that the test of necessity in holding an inquest had been met.

The court also heard that issues about the admissibility of bad character evidence would play a significant part in the case.

With the coroner said to be satisfied that Arlene is dead, it was set out that his obligation was to probe all the circumstances.

The judge hearing the case, Mr Justice Treacy, ruled on Tuesday that it should proceed to a full hearing.

He said: "I'm going to grant leave (to apply for judicial review) and fix a date for hearing.

"I'm satisfied there is an arguable case."

A one-day hearing of the issues in the High Court has been listed for November.

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