Northern Ireland

PSNI resume searches for Arlene Arkinson in Tyrone

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

Detectives investigating the murder of teenager Arlene Arkinson who disappeared after a night out almost 20 years ago have resumed a series of searches in rural locations in County Tyrone.

A team of officers using specialist PSNI search dogs are conducting searches at a number of locations.

The Castlederg teenager went missing after a night out in Bundoran in 1994.

Child killer, Robert Howard, was acquitted of Arlene's murder in 2005.

The PSNI carried out a number of searches last year.

The PSNI said the resumed operation had the "twin objectives of recovering the schoolgirl's remains and progressing the investigation".

"The sites to be covered in this phase of the search strategy have links to the overall investigation into Arlene's disappearance and murder," police said in a statement.

"Searches will continue to be conducted on a planned roll-out, depending on weather conditions, availability of resources and operational commitments."

Detectives from the serious crime branch have been in contact with Arlene's family to keep them updated.

Earlier this month, Northern Ireland's senior coroner told a preliminary hearing in Belfast that the inquest into the teenager's death may not start for two years.

The examination of her death had been due to begin in the autumn.

The hearing was told that a huge amount of outstanding paperwork still has to be re-examined by police officers.

The police files on the murder run to 3,016 documents and 793 witness statements.

Howard is currently serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of 14-year-old Hannah Williams, from Deptford, south London, whose body was found in a cement works in Northfleet, Kent, in March 2002.

In February John Leckey said he planned to call Robert Howard as a witness at the inquest.

Last December, Howard lost a High Court challenge to the Arkinson inquest being held - his lawyers claimed it was a move to undermine his acquittal.

He is to appeal against the High Court ruling.

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